Space launch company United Launch Alliance and rocket parts maker Beyond Gravity have begun expanding in north Alabama with $140 million in new construction for two facilities. Two permits have been pulled for work in Decatur, Ala., for an $80 million expansion to Beyond Gravity’s production facility and $60 million expansion for a new ULA receiving warehouse and finished goods staging facility.
The work is part of a larger, $300 million investment in the Decatur area, including funds for buildings, equipment and expanding the manufacturing capabilities of the existing ULA facility, says Darren Drinkwater, ULA director of production operations.
Turner Construction is the contractor for the two buildings, set to be completed by the first quarter of 2024, Drinkwater says. Once complete, the ULA campus will top 2.2 million sq ft in Decatur, where currently ULA has about 1.5 million sq ft in its main factory and 132,000 sq ft currently leased by Beyond Gravity.
Beyond Gravity, formerly RUAG Space, began manufacturing payload fairings and interstage adapters in Decatur in 2017, moving the process from Zurich and Emmen, Switzerland, into a factory initially built for Boeing in 1997, according to Drinkwater. The building was transitioned to ULA in 2006 with the founding of the company.
In March 2022, the company was awarded a contract from Amazon to develop and deliver the dispenser system for Amazon’s planned satellite constellation, the $10 billion Project Kuiper, which aims to provide high-speed broadband connections around the world, according to a release. Beyond Gravity was also awarded a contract from ULA for 38 payload fairings—or rocket nose cones—for ULA’s Vulcan rockets, which will protect the Amazon satellites from launch through to deployment.
The contract led Beyond Gravity to double its production capacity in the U.S. and spurred the new manufacturing facility in Decatur. The facility is expected to create 200 jobs, doubling the company’s production capacity and workforce in Decatur. According to Beyond Gravity, the new 250,000-sq-ft facility will include 30,000 sq ft of warehouse space and 20,000 sq ft for offices. The firm has set a goal of producing 10 fairings per year when the facility opens in early 2024.