WASHINGTON — Jeff Bezos on Wednesday unveiled a proposed new rocket engine that will be developed in partnership with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to replace Russian-made engines that now dominate the rocket-engine market.
Bezos’ private aerospace company, Blue Origin, will develop its BE-4 liquid-fuel engine in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA’s Atlas V launch system currently uses a Russian RD-180 engine to propel payloads into space.
Blue Origin’s rocket engine — which is at least four years away from first flight — could eventually be sold commercially. So it potentially could propel Boeing’s CST-100 manned spacecraft into orbit by the end of the decade.
Boeing on Tuesday won a $4.2 billion contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to test and fly the CST-100 crew capsule to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. At the same time, Elon Musk’s SpaceX won a $2.6 billion contract to develop its Dragon v2 capsule for the same purpose.
The United States has relied on Russian spacecraft to take American astronauts to and from the space station since NASA retired the space shuttle program in 2011. Russia charges about $70 million a seat for use of the rockets.
“I think it’s clear it’s time for a 21st-century booster engine,” Bezos said during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, five years after his internet retailer, Amazon.com, debuted online.