The launch provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA) which is jointly owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and the commercial alunch start up, Blue Origin LLC , which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, have announced a joint project to build a new LOx (liquid Oxygen)/LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas – mainly methane) powered engine design called the BE-4. Under current plans, two of the oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle BE-4 engines will replace the RD-180 engine currently used by Atlas V launch vehicles. The BE-4 which is based on Blue Origin’s BE-3 design and has a thrust of 550,000 Ibf (2,446kN). The ULA/Blue Origin agreement allows for a four-year development process with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019.
According to Space News, the BE-4 design beat competition for the agreement from Aerojet Rocketdyne, which was designing a 1 million lbf thrust class LOx/kerosene burning engine called the AJ-1, formerly known as the AJ-1-e6.