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History and Future Merge with Blue Origin Engine Plant in the Rocket City

Looking back on history with an eye to the future, elected officials joined the CEOs of Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance in a ground-breaking ceremony Friday for a $200 million rocket engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

“We’re here to celebrate history with a vision to the future,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield at the event. Canfield was joined on the speakers’ platform by Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin; Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance; Gov. Kay Ivey; U.S. Sen. Doug Jones; U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

The plant, when its doors open in 2020, is a milestone achievement in helping the United States return to space by building America’s next rocket engine.

“It’s a great day here in the Rocket City,” said Smith. “Thanks to the votes of confidence from United Launch Alliance, from the Air Force for national security missions, and from Huntsville and the state of Alabama, we are breaking ground on a facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.”

Blue Origin was selected by ULA last September of last year to supply its next generation Blue Engine 4, or BE-4, for the first stage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket

“It is a true marvel of engineering,” Smith said. “We will be able to end our dependence on Russian engines,” Smith said.

Calling it a “day of destiny,” Brooks said Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was inspired to build rockets when he saw the movie “October Sky” in 1999. The movie was based on the book “Rocket Boys” by Huntsville resident Homer Hickam. “Blue Origin is coming to the home of the man who inspired him.”

Smith also linked Huntsville’s history of building the giant engines that took Americans to the moon to building the BE-4 engines.

“We’re in final negotiations with the Marshall Space Flight Center to test the BE-4 on Test Stand 4670, the historic site of engine tests for the Saturn V and the space shuttle,” he said.

A pair of BE-4 engines will lift the new Vulcan rockets, which are made at ULA’s plant in Decatur.

“Our rockets are going to take Americans on American soil into space,” said Bruno. “And it’s about damn time!”

Blue Origin has a launch services agreement partnership with the Air Force to use its commercial, heavy-lift New Glenn launch vehicle for national security space missions. New Glenn will be powered by seven BE-4 engines.

“This gives us a chance to design, make and test a rocket engine,” said Battle. “We will produce the greatest rocket engine in the world right here in Huntsville.”

Blue Origin’s engine production facility is the latest addition to Cummings Research Park, which is the second largest research park in the United States and fourth largest in the world.

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Blue Origin to Cummings Research Park,” said Erin Koshut, the park’s executive director. “As we like to say, the research and development happening here is driven by science and powered by people.”

The plant, which is expected to employ 300 people, is on a 46-acre site at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive.

Citing this area’s importance in U.S. space history, Strong said it’s no coincidence Blue Origin chose Huntsville.

“We have got the right people in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Welcome to the ‘Propulsion Capital of the World.’”

Alabama State Games are gold for Huntsville

 

Thousands of athletes are racing to the Rocket City this weekend for a chance to win gold.

Meanwhile, Huntsville stands to reap some gold of its own – or green – through the economic impact from the  Alabama State Games XXXVI.

The city is hosting more than 5,000 athletes competing in 25 sports throughout the Huntsville-Madison County area in the state’s version of the Olympics.

“This is the largest State Games in the number of sports,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Vistors Bureau. “It will bring a $1.5 million economic impact and is a showcase for Huntsville’s venues.” 

The 36th annual event was also known as the Alabama Sports Festival when it was created and through its first few years.

“The Alabama State Games created a ‘sports festival,’ ” said Anthony Terling, vice president of external affairs for the ASF Foundation. “There are 25 sports and it’s not just a youth games. There is competition for adults, seniors and Miracle League.

“All types of individuals can compete.”

Some sports have on-site registration while team sports have already registered. For information, visit asffoundation.org/alabama-state-games and www.alagames.com.

Also, it’s not only about sports, Terling said. “We’ve given away $300,000 in scholarships.”

Huntsville is hosting for the first time since 2003-04 and will play host this year and next, with an option for a third year.

Ryals said it took teamwork by state, county and city officials to bring the games back to Huntsville, after Dothan hosted last year.

“Sen. Arthur Orr asked why we can’t have the Games,” Ryals said. “So, Mayor (Tommy) Battle and (Madison County) Chairman Dale Strong came to me and said ‘Let’s make it happen.’

“The whole team at the CVB, Huntsville Sports Commission, Parks and Recreation did make it happen. The city and county school systems offered their assistance, too.”

The State Games start Friday with Opening Ceremonies at the Von Braun Center. The ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public. They will also be televised statewide over Alabama Public Television.

“The Opening Ceremonies are going to be spectacular,” Ryals said. “The athletes will march in and we will be honoring first responders.

“It’s really nice to honor that group and give them recognition.”

https://www.asffoundation.org/alabama-state-games

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