In about two weeks Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will mark a triumphant moment after 21 years in the spaceflight business. He will climb aboard his New Shepard launch system, blast above the Kármán line into outer space, float around inside his capsule, and then return to Earth beneath parachutes.
It seems unlikely that everyone in the space community will be celebrating. Bezos made his fortune at Amazon through competitive pricing and timely delivery of goods to his customers worldwide. But so far at least, his Blue Origin space company has been a less reliable vendor.
This has been especially of concern to United Launch Alliance, which is relying on Blue Origin-built engines for its new Vulcan rocket. The US Space Force is also watching, as it is counting on the Vulcan booster to help launch some of its most precious satellites into orbit. Blue Origin's powerful BE-4 rocket engine, which burns methane and liquid oxygen, is years late.
Privately, multiple sources say, the relationship between Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance is not good. "There is great concern about this engine development," one person in the industry said. "It's much more than Tory Bruno is showing publicly. There is great concern that Blue is not putting enough attention and priority on the engine."