Posts

History and Future Merge with Blue Origin Engine Plant in the Rocket City

Looking back on history with an eye to the future, elected officials joined the CEOs of Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance in a ground-breaking ceremony Friday for a $200 million rocket engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

“We’re here to celebrate history with a vision to the future,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield at the event. Canfield was joined on the speakers’ platform by Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin; Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance; Gov. Kay Ivey; U.S. Sen. Doug Jones; U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

The plant, when its doors open in 2020, is a milestone achievement in helping the United States return to space by building America’s next rocket engine.

“It’s a great day here in the Rocket City,” said Smith. “Thanks to the votes of confidence from United Launch Alliance, from the Air Force for national security missions, and from Huntsville and the state of Alabama, we are breaking ground on a facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.”

Blue Origin was selected by ULA last September of last year to supply its next generation Blue Engine 4, or BE-4, for the first stage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket

“It is a true marvel of engineering,” Smith said. “We will be able to end our dependence on Russian engines,” Smith said.

Calling it a “day of destiny,” Brooks said Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was inspired to build rockets when he saw the movie “October Sky” in 1999. The movie was based on the book “Rocket Boys” by Huntsville resident Homer Hickam. “Blue Origin is coming to the home of the man who inspired him.”

Smith also linked Huntsville’s history of building the giant engines that took Americans to the moon to building the BE-4 engines.

“We’re in final negotiations with the Marshall Space Flight Center to test the BE-4 on Test Stand 4670, the historic site of engine tests for the Saturn V and the space shuttle,” he said.

A pair of BE-4 engines will lift the new Vulcan rockets, which are made at ULA’s plant in Decatur.

“Our rockets are going to take Americans on American soil into space,” said Bruno. “And it’s about damn time!”

Blue Origin has a launch services agreement partnership with the Air Force to use its commercial, heavy-lift New Glenn launch vehicle for national security space missions. New Glenn will be powered by seven BE-4 engines.

“This gives us a chance to design, make and test a rocket engine,” said Battle. “We will produce the greatest rocket engine in the world right here in Huntsville.”

Blue Origin’s engine production facility is the latest addition to Cummings Research Park, which is the second largest research park in the United States and fourth largest in the world.

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Blue Origin to Cummings Research Park,” said Erin Koshut, the park’s executive director. “As we like to say, the research and development happening here is driven by science and powered by people.”

The plant, which is expected to employ 300 people, is on a 46-acre site at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive.

Citing this area’s importance in U.S. space history, Strong said it’s no coincidence Blue Origin chose Huntsville.

“We have got the right people in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Welcome to the ‘Propulsion Capital of the World.’”

Blue Origin to Break Ground on Engine Facility in Cummings Research Park.

Blue Origin will break ground Friday on its 200,000 square-foot engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park. The event is invitation only.

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, will manufacture the BE-4 engine in the state-of-the-art facility. The engine will lift the Vulcan rocket, made in Decatur by United Launch Alliance. The BE-4 will end the nation’s dependence on Russian rockets.

Two BE-4s would be used on the Vulcan booster rocket. The BE-4 will also power Blue Origin’s New Glenn reusable launch system with seven BE-4s on the reusable first stage and a vacuum-optimized BE-4U on New Glenn’s second stage.

The $200 million engine plant is expected to employ about 340 people.

Rapid Growth Spurs LSINC to Purchase Building in CRP

LSINC has moved to 490 Discovery Drive. (LSINC Photo)

Less than a year from a ribbon-cutting ceremony when it moved into Cummings Research Park, LSINC has now changed addresses with the purchase of its own building elsewhere in the park.

The time of rapid growth necessitated the purchase for the Huntsville-based company. It will allow LSINC to better serve current customers, as well as allow for planned, targeted expansion into new markets.

“Purchasing a building is our commitment to our customers, employees, and the community,” said CEO Alicia Ryan. “We now have significantly more space and that will allow us to work multiple product-development projects for our clients and more easily accommodate our customers’ propriety and classified projects.

“The timing is wonderful, too, as we’ve recently begun work on our own research and design initiatives, and we now have more room to develop LSINC-branded products.”

The company’s new location is a 51,300 square-foot facility at 490 Discovery Drive. It includes 36,000 square feet of laboratory and manufacturing space with a loading dock and two drive-in doors. Assisting LSINC in site-selection were Binswanger Management and Samples Properties. Fuqua and Partners Architects is assisting with the remodeling and design.

The building will feature a specially designed innovation space with a collaborative environment for creative meetings with clients when launching the design phase of the product development process.

“By integrating our strategy approach with the product development process, we help clients think through all the possibilities and markets for how a product can be used prior to starting the design phase,” said company President Robert Lightfoot. “Our Strategy Assurance approach results in products that are engineered for the right solutions.”

The innovation space also will be used for internal R&D meetings for LSINC-branded products.

New Radiance Technologies facility ‘brings family back together’

Radiance Technologies plans to move into its new headquarters late next year.

There will be a family reunion when Radiance Technologies’ new headquarters is finished next year.

At the company’s ground-breaking ceremony, Radiance President Bill Bailey said they were ‘bringing the family back together.”

The employee-owned company will be housed in a 100,000 square-foot facility in Cummings Research Park bringing the 500-member “family” together from its current five locations.

“We’re stronger when we’re together,” Bailey said.

Radiance started in 1999 when George Clark, John Dennis and Scott Dublin opened a 3,000 square-foot facility in Executive Plaza with folding tables and chairs as office furniture. The company provides a variety of services and work for primarily government clients in cyber solutions, engineering services, integration and prototyping, operational intelligence and technical intelligence.

Their plan from the outset was to be employee-owned and Bailey cited that concept for the company’s success.

“This is what happens when you have skin in the game,” Bailey said.

The company’s headquarters is on Wynn Drive and will move to the site on Bob Heath Drive in Cummings Research Park next year.

“We’re going to pour concrete next month and construction should take 12 months,” said Gerry Shannon of Triad Properties. “The plans will be finalized at the end of next month.”

The new facility is designed to expand for an additional 30,000 square feet because, according to Bailey, “we will be filled when it opens.”

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said Radiance is a key player in the community.

“It’s what you do outside the community,” he said. “It’s bigger than meeting the objectives of Radiance; it’s meeting the objectives of the community.”

Harrison Diamond, the city’s business development director who has helped bring companies into Huntsville, said it was great to recognize a local business expand.

“It’s wonderful to watch our home-grown companies growing,” he said.

Bailey saluted the cooperation of the city, the Chamber and county in the growth of Radiance.

“When I’m in other markets, I’m asked why we’re successful,” he said. “… teamwork, unselfish teamwork, that’s the key to success.”

BWX Technologies: Huntsville’s nuclear option


Huntsville has undergone several identities over the past century: From cotton capital to the Rocket City to the Silicon Valley of the South.

Now, there’s a new addition to the city’s monikers – The New Wave of Nuclear.

And leading that wave is BWX Technologies, a leading supplier of nuclear components and fuel to the U.S. government and commercial customers. The Virginia-based company held a ribbon-cutting Thursday for its office in Cummings Research Park.

“We are the nuclear manufacturing company that people never heard of,” said company President/CEO Rex Geveden.

Geveden, who spent 17 years at NASA, joined BWXT in 2015 as chief operating officer, responsible for all operating business units. Previously, he was executive vice president at Teledyne Technologies, leading two of the four Teledyne operating segments – including Teledyne Brown in Huntsville.

“I joined the company because I thought it had promise,” he said. “We manufacture all the fuel, nuclear core and systems for every carrier and sub in the Navy’s fleet.”

The company is also setting its sights on helping space travel – BWXT was awarded a contract by NASA to initiate conceptual designs for a nuclear thermal propulsion reactor in support of a possible future manned mission to Mars.

“That’s an exciting thing about having BWXT here,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “They do really cool things when you think of thermo-nuclear propulsion.

“This brings a new market to our area … makes us stronger, makes Huntsville a better place.”

Geveden said BWXT will eventually hire about 75 to 150 people in Huntsville. “The talent pool here is very important to us.”

BWXT has a vision for the future in Huntsville.

“We’re not here for market share,” Geveden said. “We’re here for market creation.”