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Partnership to Invest $300M in Decatur, Ala., for New Rocket Factory, Warehouse

Tue November 01, 2022 - Southeast Edition #23
Made in Alabama

Beyond Gravity has been selected by United Launch Alliance (ULA) to supply 38 payload fairings for Vulcan rockets launching satellites as part of Amazon’s Project Kuiper. (ULA photo)
Beyond Gravity has been selected by United Launch Alliance (ULA) to supply 38 payload fairings for Vulcan rockets launching satellites as part of Amazon’s Project Kuiper. (ULA photo)

Switzerland-based Beyond Gravity, a manufacturer of structures for rocket launch vehicles, is adding a new production facility in Decatur, Ala., to supply additional payload fairings for the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) next-generation Alabama-built Vulcan rockets.

Beyond Gravity and ULA held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 27 at the new production site in northern Alabama's Morgan County. When it is operational, the facility will employ 200 additional people — essentially doubling the company's headcount in the state.

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, in a Made in Alabama news release. "This contract with ULA marks the next chapter in our long-standing partnership and further strengthens and expands our presence in the U.S."

Facility Latest Alabama Rocket Factory

According to Made in Alabama, the online news site for the state's Department of Commerce, Beyond Gravity said the new 250,000-sq.-ft. production building will include 30,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space and another 20,000 sq. ft. for offices.

Company officials expect the facility will be completed in time for operations to begin 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, executive vice president of the company's Launchers Division.

"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 maintains 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 [rockets]," said Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA.

ULA previously 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, the company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has established its own factory for the BE-4 engines in nearby Huntsville.

ULA expects Vulcan to make its maiden flight early next year.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama commerce department, said these developments point to the growth taking place in the space segment of his state's aerospace industry.

"Alabama has long been a 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," he said in the Made in Alabama news release. "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."

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