Blue Origin breaks ground on Huntsville plant

Ground was broken on the new Blue Origin plant at Cummings Research Park on Jan. 25, 2019.
Ground was broken on the new Blue Origin plant at Cummings Research Park on Jan. 25, 2019.(Source: WAFF)
Updated: Jan. 25, 2019 at 9:51 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The aerospace industry in the Tennessee Valley continues to grow as Blue Origin broke ground in Cummings Research Park Friday morning. It’s a project that’s been years in the making.

Gov. Kay Ivey joined executives from Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, as well as local and state officials, for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new engine production facility in Cummings Research Park.

“We’re really excited to add them to our community and to get this facility up and running, as are they, and to support their workforce development efforts here in Huntsville,” said Erin Koshut, executive director of Cummings Research Park.

The company selected the Rocket City to build its BE-4 engine after landing a contract with United Launch Alliance.

Blue Origin will supply its next generation engine for the first stage of the massive Vulcan Centaur rocket that ULA is building at its Decatur manufacturing facility.

[READ MORE: Blue Origin wins ULA engine contract, will build facility in Huntsville]

The Vulcan Centaur rocket is a new heavy lift vehicle that will replace ULA’s Atlas V Rocket, which is set for retirement in the early 2020s.

Blue Origin, owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, will eventually employ more than 300 people at its new Huntsville plant, representing a $200 million capital investment.

“United Launch Alliance welcomes Blue Origin to the great state of Alabama and to join the other aerospace companies that have made Rocket City our home for decades. A little more than three months ago, ULA chose Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to power our Vulcan Centaur rocket, which we are manufacturing at our facility in Decatur, Alabama. I am pleased that Blue Origin has chosen to join the more than 200 ULA suppliers doing business here in Alabama. The state of Alabama knows how to attract and help business grow and I could not be more thrilled to be part of the resurgence of rocket and engine development in the Tennessee Valley. “ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets are the most successful space launch vehicles in history, having launched more than 130 missions with 100 percent mission success. Today, we celebrate the culmination of those decades of knowhow and invention into the transition to our new Vulcan Centaur rocket. Vulcan Centaur is one system for all missions. It will embody our expertise and reliability while providing advanced technology to our warfighters, being superior in both cost and capability. Vulcan Centaur is the only launch vehicle with a design that is centered on our customers’ national security space mission. Vulcan Centaur will provide for our nation’s needs today and into the future. We look forward to our partnership with Blue Origin, building the advanced BE-4 engine to power our next-generation rocket, right here in Alabama!”

“It’s a significant contribution to our community. It certainly continues to reinforce our legacy in aerospace, but it also really looks towards the future. Blue Origin is at the cutting edge of what they do and who they support and we’re really excited to have them as a fabric of our community and to help them recruit their next generation of talent,” Koshut stated.

The Blue Origin site is located in the western portion of Cummings Research Park, at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive. The project will be built in two phases.

“Within about 12-18 months, we look forward to seeing the final facility and them starting to produce the engines,” Koshut said.

“It’s been a number of years since we had this many cranes all at once. Blue Origins is the latest in the development, but prior to that, BAE Systems is currently constructing their facility and Radiance Technologies is constructing their new headquarters facility in the park,” Koshut added. “They’re recruiting companies to join them as partners in efforts and really growing, not only the aerospace and defense heritage that we have, but they’re really looking at commercial efforts too. That further diversifies our economy.”

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