The Amazon founder announced Wednesday that his start-up Blue Origin would develop rocket engines for aerospace giant United Launch Alliance to send satellites into orbit.
Bezos, who said Amazon remains his day job while spending a day a week with Blue Origin, said the company's planned BE4 engine will be fueled by liquefied natural gas and is projected to provide 550,000 pounds of thrust. The engines will be reusable.
"It's time for a 21st century booster engine," Bezos said.
Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, said the company chose Blue Origin because it has been developing a new engine for three years and expects to have it ready in another four years. United Launch Alliance has a perfect record launching 88 satellites during the last eight years, he said.
"We are going to do for space in your lives what the Internet has done for the information age," Bruno said of the innovation of Blue Origin combined with the reliability of United Launch Alliance.
United Launch Alliance is investing an undisclosed amount to fund Blue Origin's engine development that could serve Atlas V or Delta IV rockets. The project comes at a time when NASA is increasingly supporting private rocket development, but Bruno and Bezos said their project is not government funded.
NASA has been encouraging private development of rockets since 2010, in anticipation of 2011's final space shuttle flight, to bring cargo and crews to the space station. U.S. crews have hitched rides on Russian rockets since then, at a cost of $70 million per trip.
Boeing was one of two successful bids Tuesday that NASA chose to carry American astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017.
Under that award, Boeing will get up to $4.2 billion and SpaceX, a rival company founded by Elon Musk that has already delivered cargo to the space station, up to $2.6 billion. The contracts call for at least one crewed test flight to the station and between two and six flights of four-person crews.