Huntsville-based Dynetics Inc. is moving forward on a $14.2 million aerospace testing facility near Decatur after winning a lucrative NASA contract.
Dynetics announced it has secured the $221 million contract to design, manufacture, test and assemble the universal stage adapter that will join the Orion space capsule to its exploration upper stage slated to fly in the 2020s.
The adapter, which will provide structural, electrical and communications paths between the capsule and the explorer stage, will be manufactured and tested in Huntsville and at the new Dynetics Aerospace Structures Complex to be built on United Launch Alliance property.
Dynetics plans to break ground on the aerospace testing facility this summer with a target completion date in 2019, according to an official statement.
News of the test facility first emerged when the Decatur Industrial Development Board voted 4-1 in March to abate $195,341 in non-educational state and county property taxes over a 10-year period and an estimated $261,000 in state and city sales taxes during the construction period.
The facility’s 100-foot-tall building will be used to test launch vehicles and large aerospace structures.
The facility is expected to initially bring about 10 jobs to the area with an average annual salary of $80,000.
However, Mike Graves, space vehicles department manager for Dynetics, said in March that Dynetics hopes to expand in Decatur, adding other buildings and more jobs within about a year.
The universal stage adapter also will involve another company that is setting up shop at ULA’s plant on Red Hat Road. Dynetics said some of the production would take place at RUAG Space USA’s new facility at ULA.
That $30.6 million facility, which is taking over 130,000 square feet of ULA floor space, is operational but still ramping up production with full production capacity expected by January.
RUAG Aerospace, a Switzerland-based company that has provided ULA with composite rocket components for years, announced plans in 2015 to locate a manufacturing operation at ULA’s plant.
The company’s composite payload fairings serve as the drag-reducing nose cones for ULA’s Atlas V launch system, and RUAG is slated to produce similar components for ULA’s larger Vulcan launch system set for a maiden flight in 2019.
RUAG is expected to bring 100 jobs to the facility by 2019 and 150 jobs by 2020 with an average annual salary of $100,000.
To help lure that project, the Decatur Industrial Development Board abated $980,000 in state and county property taxes over a 10-year period, the Alabama Industrial Development Initiative agreed to provide $1.2 million worth of pre-employment training, and the state of Alabama agreed to a $650,000 discretionary incentive.
Dynetics’ announcement comes as local officials strive to lure more aerospace companies, which are more often associated with Huntsville, to Decatur and Morgan County.
“Aerospace has been and will continue to be one of our targets. Each new announcement helps our marketing efforts when trying to attract new prospective companies,” said Jeremy Nails, president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said it gives local development officials more leverage when it comes to luring other aerospace companies.
Asked what the influx of aerospace means for the county’s legacy manufacturing companies, Nails said many of them are high-tech manufacturers, too.
“They have to be to remain competitive,” he said.
He also said the aerospace influx helps diversify the local economy.