A private space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced on June 26 that it plans to build a new rocket engine for space flights to replace engines now provided by Russia.
Blue Origin President Robert Meyerson said his company is seeking a production contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), which launches satellites for the U.S. government, for a powerful BE-4 engine designed to end dependence on Russian-built engines by 2019 -- a key goal laid down by Congress.
Blue Origin is considered a leading contender for the contract after it and ULA entered into a partnership last year with the U.S. Air Force to develop a new rocket propulsion system to power Vulcan, ULA's new rocket designed to carry heavy payloads into space.
Blue Origin said it would invest $200 million in the new engine fueled by liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas.
Republican Senator Richard Shelby, whose state of Alabama would host the new engine manufacturing plant, praised it for making independence from Russia possible.
"You are going to do well here, and we're going to replace that Russian engine," he told Blue Origin officials at a news conference in Huntsville, Alabama.