Blue Origin has recently announced its plans to manufacture the company’s new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. According to The Verge, the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political. From the report: On the surface, it’s a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville’s decades-long history of rocket development. The city is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was developed and where NASA’s future massive deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, will also be worked on. Plus, many private space contractors are based in Huntsville, making spaceflight a key part of the city’s economy and a huge jobs creator. It’s why Huntsville has been nicknamed Rocket City. But the move is most likely motivated by politics as well, given Blue Origin’s plans for the BE-4. The company ultimately hopes to use seven BE-4 engines to power its future massive rocket called the New Glenn, which is supposed to launch sometime before 2020. But that’s not the only rocket that the BE-4 could fly on. The United Launch Alliance — a company responsible for launching most of the satellites for the U.S. military — is developing a new rocket called Vulcan, and it needs new U.S.-made engines for the vehicle. Blue Origin’s move to Huntsville will supposedly generate 342 jobs at the new facility, with salaries averaging $75,000, reports The Verge. Given the city’s history, the company should have no problem finding aerospace experts in the area. The only problem that could arise would be if ULA doesn’t select the BE-4 as the Vulcan’s main engine. “ULA is also considering a second option in case the BE-4 doesn’t work out: an engine being developed by longtime manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne called the AR-1,” reports The Verge. “Aerojet is only meant to be Plan B for ULA. But it has one advantage that Blue Origin didn’t have until now: it’s building its engine in Huntsville, Alabama — and that comes with some very key political protection.”
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