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Aerojet Rocketdyne begins construction on new plant

A view of the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama just after sunset. STOCK

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey attended the official groundbreaking ceremony of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new 136,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

“This is not only an exciting day for Aerojet Rocketdyne and the city of Huntsville, it’s an exciting day for the entire state of Alabama,” Gov. Ivey stated. She said that the advanced work Aerojet Rocketdyne will be carrying out in Huntsville matches the city’s long history of innovation and aerospace engineering. Ivey said that Alabama is becoming a premier destination for aerospace industry investment.

Aerojet Rocketdyne President and CEO Eileen Drake said the company’s expansion plans will bring roughly 800 jobs to Huntsville. Earlier this year, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced plans for the new manufacturing facility, where it will produce its AR1 rocket engine, composite cases for rocket motors, 3-D printed rocket engine components and other parts.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has also announced that the company was relocating its defense division headquarters and Rocket Shop advanced programs to Huntsville, where it has had a presence for more than 50 years. That will be an estimated 2,000 more jobs.

“Our major expansion in this region that started in 2016 underscores Aerojet Rocketdyne’s belief that Huntsville, which is known as Rocket City, will continue to grow as a key aerospace and defense hub for our nation for many decades to come, and Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to be a leader in that growth,” said Drake, a former Army aviator who trained at Alabama’s Fort Rucker.

In addition to the new manufacturing facility, Drake said Aerojet Rocketdyne recently leased 122,000 square feet of office space in Cummings Research Park for its Huntsville operation, which today has around 150 workers.

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The new jobs will have an average annual salary of about $80,000.

Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Aerojet Rocketdyne has had a presence in The Rocket City for over fifty years and plans to fill a large proportion of the 700+ new positions from local talent, which demonstrates confidence in the Huntsville, Alabama area workforce.”

“And what an appropriate and nostalgic time in history as we, in 2019, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of man on the moon” Jones said. “We thank Aerojet Rocketdyne for their continued presence in Alabama, a presence that highlights the company’s important role as our state leads the nation in the aerospace industry.”

On October 9, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. has entered into an agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop and ground test an innovative propulsion system under the agency’s Advanced Full Range Engine program.

“Through the AFRE program, we aim to mature the design and component technologies and bring them together to conduct a full system-level Turbine Based Combined Cycle (TBCC) ground test demonstration,” said Drake. “Developing propulsion technologies capable of operating at subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic speeds would enable us to build future generations of high-speed military aircraft to ensure air dominance.”

The primary goal of the AFRE program is to develop and ground demonstrate a reusable hydrocarbon propulsion system that can seamlessly operate in a reliable and affordable manner over the full range of speeds between takeoff and hypersonic cruise to enable responsive hypersonic aircraft for a variety of military missions.

(Original information by the Alabama Department of Commerce and Defense contributed to this report.)

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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