Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos, has won a contract to supply its next-generation engines for the massive rocket United Launch Alliance is developing, a person familiar with the negotiations told CNBC.
The company's BE-4 engine, the thunderous staple of Blue Origin's propulsion business, will power ULA's Vulcan rocket: a new heavy lift vehicle being built to compete with SpaceX for lucrative commercial and military contracts. ULA, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin created in 2006, will announce the deal on Thursday, the person said.
ULA confirmed CNBC's reporting in a press release Thursday afternoon.
"We are pleased to enter into this partnership with Blue Origin and look forward to a successful first flight of our next-generation launch vehicle," ULA CEO said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
Bezos is investing heavily in Blue Origin, pouring about $1 billion of his Amazon stock into the rocket venture each year. In a speech Sept. 19, Bezos said he plans to invest another $1 billion next year into the company's New Glenn rocket, which BE-4 will power. The engines of a rocket represent the majority of the cost, so the contract may be worth several billion dollars to Blue Origin. The Wall Street Journal first reported the contract win by the company.
Blue Origin has long been the front-runner in a race against Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has been developing its AR1 engine. While AR1 was still technically in the running until now, Bruno had said he would prefer BE-4 for Vulcan, with AR1 potentially becoming a backup. Aerojet was behind in the development, while Blue Origin had already completed multiple tests, firing the BE-4 engine for long durations.