While delivery of new methane powered engines for United Launch Alliance was expected to occur this year, Blue Origin pushed back the delivery date to next year due to more time needed to solve issues with the engine’s turbo pump.
ULA’s Vulcan rocket, the successor to their workhorse Altas V and heavy lift Delta IV rockets, is slated to launch its first mission in 2021. Instead of developing their own engines like SpaceX, ULA has chosen to outsource that development to outside companies. They chose Blue Origin, an interesting choice since at the time they were competing for the same group of launch contracts.
These engines will also power ULA’s rocket competition, Blue Origin’s own New Glenn, which will also be reusable. ULA plans to reuse these engines through a process called SMART Reuse where they will detach the engine section of the booster and deploy parachutes to be snatched out of the sky.
It is unsure when ULA plans to begin this process. Their main task has seemed to be getting the Vulcan rocket and its duel use launch pad SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station ready for next year.
Whatever happens in 2021, this is good news for both ULA and Blue Origin. Now they both have functioning engines for their new launchers and can begin preparing for each of their rockets to debut next year.