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Blue Origin pressing on with rocket and engine development as industry copes with coronavirus

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CEO Bob Smith: The response to this disaster is fast paced and shifts from each day.

WASHINGTON — Because the coronavirus outbreak continues to shake up each sector of the U.S. financial system, including the space industry, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith says the corporate thus far has been capable of proceed on with the event of its area autos and engines.

The response to this disaster is fast paced and shifts from each day, Smith advised SpaceNews March 16. The corporate is headquartered in Kent, Washington, close to one of many epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak. Blue Origin weeks in the past stood up a job pressure to guide response efforts.

“We meet with our job pressure daily,” Smith mentioned. “It’s a altering atmosphere, and we make changes and proceed to function,” he mentioned. “We’re simply making an attempt to answer the altering atmosphere.”

Even robust journey is very restricted and most staff are teleworking, Smith mentioned Blue Origin plans to proceed to conduct check flights of its New Shepard suborbital automobile that final flew in December. The corporate has mentioned the purpose is to start out flying individuals to the sting of area as early as 2020.

“We proceed to make progress with the check program, going by way of the automobile verification course of,” Smith mentioned. “We hope to have the ability to fly individuals by the top of the 12 months.”

Smith mentioned the testing of BE-4 rocket engines because of be delivered to United Launch Alliance later this 12 months proceed as deliberate. The BE-Four is the principle engine of ULA’s next-generation rocket the Vulcan Centaur, that’s being manufactured in Decatur, Alabama.

“We proceed to maneuver alongside, we’re attending to the purpose the place we’re able to enter into qualification,” he mentioned. “We’ll qualify the engine this 12 months and we’ll ship some engines to ULA that they’ll combine into Vulcan this 12 months. They’re largely full. We’ll be transport them within the subsequent couple of months.”

Blue Origin in February opened a 350,000-square-foot manufacturing unit in Huntsville, Alabama, to supply BE-4s and BE-3U higher stage engines for Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. The manufacturing unit will make use of greater than 300 employees and produce as much as 42 engines a 12 months.

“We’ll be putting in tooling there this summer season and begin constructing our check stand for BE-Four and BE-3U,” mentioned Smith. “That can permit us to check manufacturing engines and ship them to ULA in Decatur and to Florida for our New Glenn.”

Assessments of Blue Origin’s BE-7 lunar lander engine proceed on at NASA’s Marshall House Flight Middle and at Air Drive Analysis Laboratory amenities in California.

“We’re making an attempt to get by way of improvement as shortly as doable to be prepared for the lunar mission,” mentioned Smith. The corporate’s Blue Moon lunar lander will likely be powered by a single BE-7 engine.

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