More reports on: Tesla Motors

Bezos, Musk enter space war

20 September 2014

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and Tesla's Elon Musk are officially at war after Bezos presided over a press conference in which his rocket company Blue Origin formed a partnership with United Launch Alliance or ULA, SF Gate reported.

The deal would see Blue Origin develop an engine for use with ULA's rockets, which currently carry US government and military satellites into space.

The deal helps ULA save face, giving the company - a joint partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin - access to a US-made engine. ULA has so far relied on Russian-made RD-180.

The tie-up also unveils the efforts of one of the staunchest rivals to Elon Musk's rocket company,SpaceX.

SpaceX had so far had better success than Blue Origin, sending supplies to the International Space Station, taken up satellites for numerous commercial customers, and run public tests of its reusable rockets.

The company also last week, secured a $2.6-billion contract from NASA to take astronauts to the International Space Station, ending US dependence on Russian capsules.

Blue Origin, by contrast, had operated in near-total secrecy and had released information only about its engine and rocket development. With Bezos's fortune behind it, the company had been able to freely work on its technology without chasing commercial work.

United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin Corp and The Boeing Co partnership teaming up with Blue Origin LLC, to build a new rocket engine named BE-4 that would be ready for testing in 2016, and commercial use in 2019.

The BE-4 is now undergoing testing at Blue Origin's West Texas facilities. The US made rocket engine would cost much less than the Russian-built RD-180 that was currently in use to power ULA's heavy-lift Atlas 5 rockets.

Although ULA already had a two-year supply of Russian engines with an additional 11 to be delivered by 2014 end and 2015, the BE-4 would be a standby just in case the RD-180 engine supply got disrupted.

According to commentators, given the mounting tensions between the countries over Ukraine, the latest move by the US to end its sole reliance on Russia had taken on a fresh urgency.

The diplomatic stand-off had also led to tensions which were now not only confined to the making of engines but also involved international spaceflight.

The space shuttle fleet had been retired in July 2011 and since then NASA had had to rely upon the Russian space agency for transporting its astronauts to International Space Station or ISS at a cost of up to $71 million per seat on Russian Soyuz capsules.

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