Blue Origin to revive historic Saturn V test stand
A piece of Space Age history is getting a new lease with news that Blue Origin plans to refurbish and operate the famous test stand used to develop the Saturn V moon rockets. Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement with NASA, the private space company will reactivate and upgrade Test Stand 4670 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for test firing the company's latest rocket engines.
Sitting idle since 1998, the 300-ft (91 m) tall, vertical-firing Test Stand 4670 was built in 1965 to support the development and testing of the Saturn V rocket that propelled the first and only manned flights to the Moon under the Apollo program. In the 1970 and 80s the giant concrete and steel stand was used for testing the Space Shuttle's external tank and main engines.
Now, Blue Origin, in answer to a 2017 NASA notice of availability, has agreed to take on the test stand for commercial space purposes. Specifically, it will be used to test the BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines, which will power United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin's New Glenn launch booster. In return, Blue Origin will underwrite refurbishing the test stand and any direct costs to NASA for the project.
"I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines," says Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin. "Through this agreement, we'll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville."