In this explanation of the Blue Origin BE-4 engine, the text says:
Blue Origin’s BE-4 requires NO taxpayer dollars.
The BE-4 is fully paid for by the private sector requiring no government funding for development. A recent NASA “Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition” for buying additional Space Shuttle Main Engines states that a traditional engine development program will cost more than $2.2 billion.
Save taxpayer money
The BE-4 saves taxpayers an additional $3 billion in national security launch costs over 20 years by providing higher thrust – 1.1 million pounds versus 860,000 pounds for the RD-180 – which enables a greater payload capability and allows for the removal of a solid rocket motor at more than 10 million per flight for comparable missions.
Do I understand this correctly - the BE-4 engine will save US taxpayers $3 billion over 20 years because it has 28% more thrust than RD-180 engine? The math is 300 launches times 10 million per launch = 3 billion? Or 150 launches times 20 million (two boosters) per launch?
It sort-of sounds like private investment is considered "free money" and they'll never want to recover their investment by charging more. That's often a criticism of companies using government money for development - that it's "not fair" because it's "free money". But I don't usually follow these arguments very closely so maybe I am missing some subtleties.
However there does seem to be a much more extensive discussion of the issues related to the RD-180 and BE-4 engines and US government satellite launches in the 2014 The Space Review article ULA, Blue Origin and the BE-4 engine. Here is a snippet, but there is much more to read in the full article:
The companies issued statements to try to dispel the perceived purpose of the Blue Origin BE-4 engine: “The BE-4 is not a direct replacement for the RD-180 that powers ULA’s Atlas V rocket, however two BE-4s are expected to provide the engine thrust for the next generation ULA vehicles. The details related to ULA’s next generation vehicles—which will maintain the key heritage components of ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets that provide world class mission assurance and reliability—will be announced at a later date.”
However, ULA posted this on its Twitter account: “We intend to use a pair of BE-4s on the base Atlas with even better performance.” In addition, the handout for the BE-4 states the engine will be built for “…meeting both commercial requirements and those of the U.S. Air Forces’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.”