United Launch Alliance’s investment in Blue Origin’s development of a new rocket engine is good news and the first real indication that the U.S. “old space” industry is prepared to compete with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., albeit in partnership with ostensibly a “new space” organization [“ULA Investing in Blue Origin-built RD-180 Engine Replacement,” Sept. 22, page 5]. And no additional government funding was needed for this development.

Blue Origin has already done a fair bit of preliminary work with the propellant so they’re not starting from scratch either. It will be interesting to see the progress of their new engine as well as how SpaceX does with its Raptor. 

At the end of the day, there possibly will be two brand-new engines for the U.S. launch industry.

Neil Shipley

Perth, Western Australia