Aerojet Rocketdyne to build AR1 rocket engine, add 800 Alabama jobs in expansion

Aerojet Rocketdyne previously selected Huntsville as the home of its Defense division headquarters and its Rocket Shop advanced programs. (Aerojet Rocketdyne)

Aerojet Rocketdyne announced plans Monday to expand its presence in Huntsville with a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for the company’s AR1 rocket engine and the relocation of engineering, program management, and other jobs.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s overall growth plans for Huntsville call for the California-based company to add 800 jobs to support the U.S. space and defense programs for the next quarter century and beyond.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 rocket engine undergoes a test-firing. (Aerojet Rocketdyne)

As part of a strategic Competitive Improvement Program, Aerojet Rocketdyne previously selected Huntsville as the home of its Defense division headquarters and its Rocket Shop advanced programs.

“We are two years into the first phase of our CIP affordability drive and the consolidation progress, and overhead cost reductions achieved to date have exceeded our expectations,” Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake said.

“We intend to build on this success by expanding our CIP-related consolidation efforts so we can deliver the value our customers demand and position our company for further growth.”

New rocket engine

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been developing the AR1 rocket engine since 2014 as a replacement for Russian engines used on the Atlas V rocket, which is assembled in Decatur by the United Launch Alliance.

The Atlas V rocket, being assembled in Alabama, could use the AR1 engine being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. (Aerojet Rocketdyne)

In addition, the AR1 is being advanced for use on the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s Mars rocket now under development at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The AR1 production facility in Huntsville will include advanced functions such as additive manufacturing (3-D printing), composites fabrication, and research and development. The company expects the facility to be ready for production in mid-2019.

“Huntsville’s legacy in the development of rocket propulsion systems makes it the ideal choice for Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 rocket engine assembly center and its advanced manufacturing and engineering operations,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne’s decision to base these cutting-edge activities in Huntsville is a powerful endorsement of the capabilities found there,” he said.

The company said it plans to move all Defense-related program management, engineering and support positions to Huntsville by the end of 2018. Some positions at a Gainesville, Virginia, facility that is being closed will also move to Huntsville.

“We believe these actions are essential for the performance of our business and the growth of the company. The results from this initiative will benefit our valued employees, customers and shareholders alike,” Drake said.

‘Rocket City USA’

Huntsville officials welcomed the company’s expansion news.

Aerojet Rocketdyne-produced the main rocket engine for the Space Shuttle, and the RS-25 engine will be used to launch the SLS, NASA’s next-generation rocket under development at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. (Aerojet Rocketdyne)

“This project is another great example of our effort to diversify Huntsville’s economy with high-quality advanced manufacturing, and yet, Aerojet Rocketdyne is here because of Huntsville’s outstanding role in research and defense technology,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

“This project works all facets of our economy by marrying R&D with advanced manufacturing. We are both rocket scientists and rocket builders,” he said.

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong said, “The announcement by Aerojet Rocketdyne today selecting Huntsville, Alabama, to build their rocket engines reaffirms we are and will continue to be Rocket City USA and our world will be better because of this decision.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne has worked with Huntsville-based Dynetics on the AR1 rocket engine project.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

Republished with permission of Alabama NewsCenter.