Defense giant Aerojet Rocketdyne, whose chief executive met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson in September to dedicate the expansion of the company’s sprawling 1,200-acre industrial site in East Camden, announced on Tuesday it was awarded a $1.16 billion contract by NASA to restart production of the rocket to take the first human to Mars.
The multibillion dollar contract, which runs from this month through Sept. 30, 2024, is to restart the production line of the RS-25 engine for NASA’s Space Launch System, which Rocketdyne officials called “the most powerful rocket in the world and designed for the Journey to Mars. The California defense giant’s NASA deal also includes a $200 million contract with Boeing to design and module propulsion system that will later support human spaceflight to the Red Planet.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25, and four of these engines will fly on the bottom of the core stage of the SLS rocket, together producing more than two million pounds of thrust. I
The first flight test of the SLS is slated for 2018, and it will be configured for a 70-metric-ton lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft. As SLS evolves, it will be the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons.
Although the RS-25 engines will be manufactured and assembled near NASA Aerojet Rocketdyne’s rocket production facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., company officials said the defense giant plans to make use of its existing supplier base and hire new contractors to support the project.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., based in Sacramento,Calif. In March, the company formerly changed its name from GenCorp. Inc. and began trading under the new ticker symbol, “AJRD.” Two months later in June, following a meeting with Gov. Hutchinson at the Paris Air Show, Aerojet Rocketdyne officials announced plans to expand the company’s operations in Calhoun County.
In early September, Aerojet Rocketdyne President and CEO Eileen Drake gathered with Gov. Hutchinson and a host of local and state government officials to dedicate the company’s $18 million expansion that included the addition of 85 new full-time employees and building and equipment upgrades at industrial site in East Camden where the company manufactures solid rocket motors and warheads for the defense industry. The manufacturing and test facility is also powered by a 12-megawatt full-scale solar energy complex that is the largest of its kind in Arkansas to date.
According to company officials, the project’s recent construction phase supported between 250 and 350 direct and indirect jobs, with a financial impact of more than $25 million, officials said. Currently, the rocket manufacturer employs more than 630 workers at its South Arkansas facility, adjacent to Lockheed Martin’s proposed Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production site.