Raymond: Blue Origin’s Rocket Engine Setback Confirms AFSPC Strategy

Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Jay Raymond on Friday downplayed Blue Origin’s recent problem in the testing of its BE-4 rocket engine. On May 14, the company announced via Twitter that it had “lost a set of powerpack test hardware on one of our BE-4 test stands.” Raymond told the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee the “mishap is regrettable, but it isn’t unprecedented in … development efforts.” The BE-4 is Blue Origin’s entry to replace the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine. If problems with BE-4 continue, however, “I think this adds credibility to our strategy to make sure that there’s multiple engines being developed,” Raymond said. He also emphasized that “it’s [United Launch Alliance’s] final, ultimate decision” on which engine to use in its launch vehicle. “Once that decision is made,” Raymond said, “the Air Force, as a significant customer of that launch service, will do its own independent review.” Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed critical design review on AR-1, its entry in the RD-180 replacement competition.