Alabama operations support Boeing’s critical aerospace missions

Alabama operations support Boeing’s critical aerospace missions
This artist's rendering depicts Boeing's Gateway concept design. The company's new Gateway Demonstrator was built in Huntsville. (Boeing)

Boeing continues to build its legacy in Alabama with new products and services that are helping to transform the future of the global space and defense industries. With more than 3,000 jobs based in Alabama, Boeing is one of the state’s largest private employers.

The company last month revealed the Huntsville-built Gateway Demonstrator, a prototype of the deep-space outpost that is key to U.S. plans to return astronauts to the moon’s surface within five years. Boeing was the only company among the five contractors selected to build full-scale ground demonstrators to base its module in Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

Additionally, Boeing is the prime contractor on the core stage of NASA’s powerful new exploration rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which will return astronauts to the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

The SLS program represents a significant portion of the work done at MSFC and the state’s space jobs and economic impact. Just as in the Apollo program, Boeing is continuing its role in building the critical stages for the most powerful rocket in the world in Huntsville.

Elsewhere, Boeing has a stake in United Launch Alliance, which recently shipped from its Decatur factory an Atlas V rocket that is bound for the milestone mission of restoring the nation’s human launch capability.

The company’s state operations also continue to make innovative strides in systems that are crucial to the safety and security of the homeland and beyond.

This year, the Huntsville site supported the U.S. Air Force during four missile flight tests, including a historic “two-shot salvo” engagement where two Ground-based Midcourse Defense system interceptors were launched and successfully destroyed.

“Boeing is proud to provide defensive and strategic systems that protect the U.S. and allied nations,” said Norm Tew, vice president and general manager for Boeing Missile and Weapon Systems.

“In early 2019, the Boeing Missile and Weapon Systems team supported four significant, incredibly challenging missile tests in less than four months,” Tew said. “It’s unprecedented, and it shows the world that this Boeing team honors our commitments to our nation’s defenders.

“This season of tests across the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) and Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile programs (ICBM) has been a clear demonstration that Boeing delivers results with integrity, quality and safety.”

Boeing employees work inside a lunar simulator. The company has more than 3,000 employees in Alabama. (contributed)

Expanding presence

Boeing’s presence in Alabama stretches back 57 years, and today the company has 3,049 employees in the state. This year, Boeing completed an expansion of its location at the Jetplex Industrial Park.

The $70 million project includes the new Huntsville Electronics Center of Excellence, cafeteria and additional conference space. At this center, a team of electrical engineers and technicians develops circuit boards for Boeing weapons, space and aircraft programs.

The company’s operations in Alabama span a wide range of research, design, development and manufacturing activities, including space and defense work, commercial airplanes and supporting services.

Boeing Research & Technology in Alabama includes hundreds of engineers who develop artificial intelligence, autonomous technologies, modeling and simulation, advanced materials and cybersecurity technologies.

The company works with nearly 200 businesses across the state and recorded making $689 million in vendor purchases in 2018, directly and indirectly supporting 20,000 jobs.

Community outreach is a key component of Boeing’s impact in Alabama as well, as the company had $1.7 million in charitable contributions last year.

“It’s hard to overstate Boeing’s influence on Alabama’s economy and aerospace industry,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “This company helped form the foundation of our state’s contribution to missile defense, space exploration and aviation advancements, and it continues to shape these industries in markets around the globe with breakthrough technologies and products.”

Boeing in Alabama is working on the Space Launch System, NASA’s most powerful rocket. (Boeing)

Space travel

Among Boeing’s most recent developments in Alabama are key contributions to the future of space travel.

The Decatur-built Atlas V rocket is set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on the Crew Flight Test mission to the International Space Station in what could be the first time an American-made rocket has carried U.S. astronauts to the orbiting laboratory since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. The Boeing design center in Huntsville provided all the structural design for the Starliner capsule. Additionally, Boeing’s Phantom Works division, which has an operation in Huntsville, provided the power systems for the capsule.

NASA has said regular commercial transportation using the Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to and from the space station will enable an expanded crew, more station use and additional research time. The flights also are expected to help address the challenges of taking astronauts toward the moon and Mars.

Boeing’s Huntsville-built Gateway Demonstrator is a prototype of the deep-space outpost that is key to U.S. plans to return astronauts to the moon’s surface. (Boeing)

Gateway Demonstrator

In other Alabama activities, Boeing built and is testing the Gateway Demonstrator at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Its design is based on the ISS modules that Boeing built and has supported for more than 20 years, except with 30 percent more habitable volume in each module.

In 2016, NASA contracted with Boeing and five other companies to design and build ground-based Gateway prototypes. It will act as a reusable moon-orbiting exploration hub, a technology test bed and a research base for government and private organizations.

“Our Gateway engineering is well beyond Systems Requirements Review maturity and leverages the flight-proven structural design heritage of ISS,” said Mark Ortiz, Boeing program manager for the Gateway Demonstrator.

The Gateway Demonstrator will enable crewed and robotic missions in lunar orbit, on the moon’s surface and eventually to Mars.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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