By Jerry Underwood, MadeinAlabama.com
Switzerland-based Beyond Gravity, a manufacturer of structures for launch vehicles, is adding a new production facility in Decatur to provide additional payload fairings for the United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Alabama-built Vulcan rockets.
Beyond Gravity said it is working with ULA to build the new production facility, which will add 200 workers at the new production site in Morgan County. The new hiring will essentially double the company’s headcount in Alabama.
Beyond Gravity — formerly known as RUAG Space — said the expansion project follows its selection by ULA to supply 38 payload fairings for Vulcan rockets launching satellites as part of Amazon’s Project Kuiper. A fairing is the pointed tip of the rocket that protects the satellites from high temperatures, mechanical stresses and other hazards.
Project Kuiper aims to place a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit to provide affordable high-speed broadband connections around the world.
“I am very proud that the Vulcan launch vehicles that will carry the Kuiper constellation into space rely on our leading-edge and proven technology in the field of composite structures,” said André Wall, CEO of Beyond Gravity.
“This contract with ULA marks the next chapter in our long-standing partnership and further strengthens and expands our presence in the U.S.,” he added.
Beyond Gravity said the new 250,000-square-foot production building will include 30,000 square feet of warehouse space and another 20,000 square feet for offices.
The facility will be completed for operations beginning in early 2024.
“Beyond Gravity has fantastic people with a high level of commitment and a clear focus on the needs of our customers,” said Paul Horstink, who heads the Launchers Division as executive vice president.
“With this new facility, Beyond Gravity will move to the next level: from producing a total of 10 payload fairings in Decatur per year to a target of 25,” he added.
ULA, which operates America’s largest rocket factory in Decatur, and Beyond Gravity have had a strategic partnership to produce composite structures for ULA rockets since 2015.
“We have a long history of a strong partnership with Beyond Gravity and look forward to continuing the great work as we increase our launch rate for our Vulcan launch vehicle,” said Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA.
Earlier this month, ULA announced that is nearing completion of the first Vulcan Centaur rocket at its Decatur plant as it awaits installation of its BE-4 engines. Blue Origin has established a factory for the BE-4 engines in nearby Huntsville.
ULA expects Vulcan to make its maiden flight early next year.
Colorado-based ULA is expanding its Decatur plant today to increase production of the Vulcan rocket.
Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said these developments point to the growth taking place in the space segment of the state’s aerospace industry.
“Alabama has long been major player in designing and manufacturing the most innovative, complex solutions to conquer skies and space, and we are continuing to influence the direction of the global industry today,” Secretary Canfield said.
“Companies around the world know our workforce has proven itself, time and time again, and that’s why they keep turning to Alabama to help solve the industry’s biggest challenges through groundbreaking work,” he added.