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Aerojet Rocketdyne consolidating, optimizing operations

Aerojet Rocketdyne tests a portion of its AR1 engine at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Photo Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne tests a portion of its new AR1 engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Photo Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne recently announced the next phase of what it calls its Competitive Improvement Program (CIP), a plan to consolidate and optimize the company’s operation. It is hoped that this will result in an annual savings of $230 million.

The company is two years into the first phase of its CIP, which began in 2015. In an April 10, 2017, news release, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake said that overhead cost reductions achieved to date have exceeded the company’s expectations.

“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,” Drake said.

For phase two, according to Aerojet Rocketdyne:

Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to consolidate its Sacramento and Vernon, California, and Gainesville, Virginia, sites while centralizing and expanding its existing presence in Huntsville, Alabama, with a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for AR1 engine production, Additive Manufacturing, Composites production and Research & Development, expected to be ready for production in mid-2019.

The new Huntsville facility will be built at the North Huntsville Industrial Park and is anticipated to come with hundreds of new jobs. Among other things, the new facility will produce the AR1 rocket engine – a candidate to power United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) new launch vehicle, Vulcan, which will be constructed a few miles down the road at ULA’s Decatur, Alabama, facility.

Reports have indicated, for reasons including cost and production schedule, that ULA will prefer Blue Origin’s BE-4 methane engine to power Vulcan, and that its formal selection could take place “as soon as 60 to 90 days.”

However, ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno, recently insisted that Aerojet Rocketdyne’s kerosene-powered AR1 is still in contention for use in Vulcan.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s defense-related positions will be moved from Sacramento to Huntsville by the end of 2018. Everything else will be moved to the company’s aerospace headquarters in Los Angeles by the end of 2019. A total of 1,100 of the 1,400 positions there are expected to be relocated or eliminated.

The Gainesville site will be closed by the third quarter of 2018 and its 170 positions relocated to Huntsville and a facility in Orange County, Virginia, or eliminated.

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




Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.

Reader Comments

Assuming that ULA do select the BE4 for Vulcan, where is the market for AR1? It would be an engine without a vehicle. I can’t see it actually getting built.

Especially since it will then be competing with RD-180 on the market.

… shrink to fit.

In this era of burgeoning reusability building a single use rocket engine (AR-1) seems remarkably rearward thinking.

I am surprised how many manufacturers are in denial. They seem content making buggy whips in the era of horseless carriages.

I hate to see AR go under but unless it designs in reusability it seems destined to.

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