Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company seeks state tax incentives to manufacture its forthcoming BE-4 rocket engines here.
Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, said Thursday the space company will decide soon on the location where it will manufacture its forthcoming large rocket engine, the BE-4.
But he said the company, founded by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, is seeking new tax incentives to locate the facility in Washington state.
At its Kent headquarters, Blue Origin employs more than 400 engineers who design and build development models of both its space rockets and the engines that power them.
“Building the engine near the engineering team that designed it … has benefits,” said Meyerson, speaking at the Economic Forecast Conference at the Seattle Westin Hotel. “But there are other factors.”
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He lamented the fact that two tax incentives that applied to Blue Origin’s work — the high-technology research business and occupation tax credit and sales-tax exemption — were both allowed to expire at the beginning of 2015.
And he called for the passage of House Bill 2226 in the current legislative session, which would extend to manufacturers of spacecraft the same aerospace-industry incentives available to Boeing and its suppliers in the commercial-airplane business.
Blue Origin achieved a first in November when it managed to shoot an unmanned crew capsule into space atop its New Shepard launch rocket, powered by a smaller BE-3 engine, then returned the rocket safely to land only a few feet from the launchpad.
That rocket, the crew capsule, and the engine were all designed and built in Kent.
Blue Origin is also working on a bigger rocket that will go into orbit, using the much larger engine.
That BE-4 engine, using liquid oxygen and liquid methane propellants, has also been chosen by United Launch Alliance (ULA) — the Boeing/Lockheed Martin launch vehicle joint venture — to power the forthcoming Vulcan rocket that will replace the current Atlas V.
“The (BE-4) design is being done here and the development engines and first production engines will be made here,” Meyerson said. But he added that by the time BE-4 production gets to full rate in 2019, “ULA will need more engines than we can build in Kent.”
Meyerson said he’s “looking to add hundreds of jobs” in engineering, finance and other fields with the BE-4 manufacturing work.
“We’d love to invest more here,” he said. But before committing, Blue Origin clearly wants the state to step forward with those incentives.
Last September, when Blue Origin chose a location near Cape Canaveral, Fla., for its large rocket manufacturing and launch site, it got $18 million in incentive grants from Brevard County and the state.