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Blue Origin Blunder: Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Company Suffers Engine Explosion During Testing

Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin suffered a rocket engine explosion during testing last month, when its BE-4 rocket engine detonated about 10 seconds into the test. The explosion destroyed the engine and severely damaged the company’s testing infrastructure.

The rocket engine explosion occurred on June 30 at Blue Origin’s facility in Texas, according to a report by CNBC News.

Sources told the outlet that they saw video of a dramatic explosion that destroyed the engine and causes severe damage to the test stand infrastructure.

“No personnel were injured and we are currently assessing root cause,” a Blue Origin spokesperson told CNBC. “We already have proximate cause and are working on remedial actions.”

The spokesperson added that the company “ran into an issue while testing Vulcan’s Flight Engine 3.”

While the explosion also suggests that the company’s already-delayed first Vulcan launch will be further pushed back, the Blue Origin spokesperson insisted “the BE-4 testing issue is not expected to impact our plans for the Vulcan Cert-1 mission.”

The engines for Cert-1 “successfully passed acceptance testing” and are qualified to launch, the spokesperson added.

Sources familiar with the matter who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity said the engine that exploded was supposed to finish testing in July. After that, it was going to be sent to Blue Origin’s customer United Launch Alliance (ULA) for use on its second Vulcan rocket launch, they added. ULA is the rocket-building joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, a competitor of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The Blue Origin spokesperson said the company “immediately” made its customer, ULA, aware of what happened. Bezos’ space company added that it will be able to “continue testing” engines in West Texas as it had previously built two stands for the tests. “We will be able to meet our engine delivery commitments this year and stay ahead of our customer’s launch needs,” the spokesperson said.

Breitbart News recently reported that Blue Origin may receive a giveaway as part of the NDAA:

At the time, the government created two contracting lanes — Lane 2, which it reserves for the most national security-sensitive missions, and Lane 1, which is for less critical missions. It would provide contracts to two companies for the former and an unlimited number for the latter. This helps the learning curve of Bezos’ problem-ridden company without significantly distressing America’s national security needs and ambitions.

Now, the Senate Armed Services Committee has gone a step further by proposing that the government allow for more than two contractors to service Lane 2 — the national-security sensitive lane.

Senate leaders are considering this Bezos bailout despite the fact that the House’s version of the NDAA, passed on June 21 deferred to the U.S. Air Force’s opinion. The Air Force has made it clear that it wants the government to select only two providers for Lane 2.

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