Rocket Lab opened its Engine Development Center in Long Beach, California on October 4th. The new facility, spanning a sprawling 13,400 square meters, is poised to play a pivotal role in advancing the production of Rocket Lab's engines.
Rocket Lab opened its Engine Development Center in Long Beach, California on October 4th.
The new facility, spanning a sprawling 13,400 square meters, is poised to play a pivotal role in advancing the production of Rocket Lab's engines, specifically the Rutherford engines for its Electron rocket and the larger Archimedes engines designed for the forthcoming Neutron rocket.
The building's previous tenant, Virgin Orbit, occupied the facility until their Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in April. In a deft move, Rocket Lab seized the opportunity and acquired the lease on the building, along with all machinery and equipment inside, for a total of $16.1 million in a bankruptcy auction held in May.
"Things that we were thinking we could probably get done in 12 to 18 months, well, it’s done. So really it was more of a timeline and uncertainty shrinker, if you will. Getting stuff for 16 cents on the dollar didn’t hurt as well." - Adam Spice, Rocket Lab's Chief Financial Officer
Before securing the facility, Rocket Lab had planned to carry out engine production at its existing headquarters nearby. However, the acquisition not only expedites the scaling up of engine production but also frees up valuable resources for the expansion of their space systems business, particularly satellite production.
Moreover, the proximity of the new engine facility to Rocket Lab's existing headquarters is seen as a significant advantage.
"We really lucked out." - Adam Spice, Rocket Lab's Chief Financial Officer
Rocket Lab swiftly transitioned into the facility shortly after the bankruptcy sale was finalized. Employees immediately began configuring the space for engine production, while also managing the inventory of items left behind by Virgin Orbit. The inventory proved to be a diverse range, from advanced industrial equipment to substantial stockpiles of furniture and office equipment.
The company is already in the process of manufacturing parts for the Archimedes engine. Furthermore, over the previous weekend, they initiated the relocation of the Rutherford engine production line to the new building, with full-scale engine production expected to ramp up over the coming months.
This development also holds significance for the city of Long Beach, which has actively sought to attract space companies under the "Space Beach" initiative.
Virgin Orbit was the first to establish a presence in the city, prior to its bankruptcy. Rex Richardson, the Mayor of Long Beach, expressed his appreciation for Rocket Lab taking over the facility and its commitment to organizing job fairs for former Virgin Orbit employees. He emphasized the resilience of Long Beach's growing space cluster.
While celebrating this milestone, Rocket Lab is also actively investigating the Electron launch failure that occurred on September 19th. The investigation is in its early stages but based on current information, there are no indications suggesting a different outcome than the previous two Electron launch failures in July 2020 and May 2021. Both of those failures involved the upper stage, and the company was able to resume Electron launches within a few months.
As Rocket Lab pushes forward with its engine development center and continues to refine its launch capabilities, the Long Beach facility stands as a testament to the company's commitment to innovation and growth in the ever-evolving space industry.