Boeing-Lockheed venture said teaming with Bezos on rocket engine
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A joint venture of Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: Quote) plans to announce on Wednesday that it will team up with Blue Origin, a company run by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O: Quote) founder Jeff Bezos, to develop a new rocket engine, a source familiar with the plans said.
Officials at Boeing and Lockheed declined comment. No comment was immediately available from Blue Origin or United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed venture that uses Russian-built engines to power some of its rockets.
ULA had sent out a request for information asking the U.S. aerospace industry earlier this year for ideas on how to replace the Russian-built RD-180 that powers ULA's heavy-lift Atlas 5 rockets, which are used to launch many U.S. military and spy satellites.
Tensions with Russia over its actions in Ukraine have raised concerns that Russia could cut off deliveries of the RD-180 engines, according to U.S. officials, who hope to start funding work on a U.S. alternative in the Pentagon's 2016 budget.
The partnership agreement will pit Bezos against Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, which is seeking certification from the Air Force for its own Falcon 9 rockets.
The certification was due to be completed by the end of this year, but may now slip into next year, according to U.S. officials. They said the process may be slowed while officials look into the recent explosion of a SpaceX experimental rocket that uses the same engine as the Falcon 9.
SpaceX is also competing with Boeing and privately held Sierra Nevada Corp. for a NASA contract to ferry astronauts to and from the international space station.
NASA is expected to award that contract to one or more bidders on Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the process.
Boeing is poised to win the lion's share of that work, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also reported the expected ULA teaming agreement with Bezos. Continued...