Aerojet Rocketdyne lays off 65 employees with more cuts possibly on the way
According to sources within the aerospace industry, rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne laid off an estimated 65 of its workers this past week. The decision to close out these positions comes at a time when the company is recovering from issues encountered with the aerospace firm’s AJ26 rocket engine, which was involved with the loss of Orbital ATK’s Antares booster and its payload of a Cygnus spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.
In 2013, AL.com reported that Aerojet Rocketdyne could bring as many as 5,000 new aerospace engineering jobs to Huntsville, Alabama, the location of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
However, since that time, several events have transpired that appear to have altered the company’s trajectory.
The Sacramento Bee reported on March 9 that the company was planning on laying off as much as 10 percent of its workforce, including as many as 250 jobs at its Sacramento facilities alone. This is coupled with proposed plans to cut back as much as 40 percent of its office space and manufacturing assets.
The report goes on to detail that the rationale behind these layoffs as being designed to increase efficiency and cut costs.
Late in 2014, an Orbital ATK Antares booster, with its Cygnus CRS Orb-3 spacecraft payload, malfunctioned approximately 12 seconds into its flight, due to an apparent issue with the turbopump of one of the two AJ26 rocket engines that powered the launch vehicle’s first stage – causing the complete loss of both the booster and the automated Orb-3 cargo vehicle.
Orbital ATK has entered into the $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA to utilize Cygnus to ferry cargo and crew supplies to the space station. Since the loss of the Orb-3 mission, the company has begun working with United Launch Alliance to use their reliable Atlas V 401 booster to conduct the Orb-4 mission late this year.
If everything goes according to plan, Antares will once again take to the skies in 2016, with a new engine – the Russian-built RD-181.
Meanwhile, the company has made positive progress with its efforts to produce rocket engines and components made from the process known as additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing.
In an attempt to gain confirmation of the dynamics behind this layoff, SpaceFlight Insider reached out to Aerojet Rocketdyne for a comment; as of the publication of this article, no response has been received.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is based in Sacramento, California, and is owned by GenCorp. The current organization is the result of a 2013 merger between Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.