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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Rocket Maker Separates Jobs

The restructuring of GenCorp’s Aerojet Rocketdyne division that was announced this month is not expected to result in the elimination of any programs from its San Fernando Valley facility in Chatsworth. While the plan for the rocket manufacturer will cut about 500 jobs from the division, the only location that has been identified for layoffs is in Sacramento – so far. “Nothing has been identified in the San Fernando Valley,” said Mark Tucker, a senior vice president based out of the Chatsworth campus at DeSoto Avenue and Nordhoff Street. GenCorp, in suburban Sacramento, said on March 9 it was starting a four-year program to reduce costs and improve efficiencies at Aerojet Rocketdyne as it faces pricing and other pressures from its aerospace and defense customers that are experiencing budget cuts of their own. The restructuring includes a 10 percent reduction among its 5,000 employees and reducing by 1 million square feet its Sacramento plant footprint through consolidation and relocation. When the company-wide cuts come, they will be across the board but will likely have minimal impact on the types of engineering and manufacturing technician positions found at the DeSoto campus, Tucker said. “Most of the cuts will come out of indirect (administrative) positions,” he added. Aerojet Rocketdyne last made staffing cuts in the Valley a year ago when more than 160 positions were eliminated. There were two factors behind those cuts – the acquisition in 2012 of Rocketdyne by GenCorp, the parent of Aerojet, and the winding down of some NASA-related programs the company was working on. The acquisition resulted in redundancies in administration and support staff, Tucker said. Marco A. Caceres, senior analyst and director of space studies for aerospace research firm Teal Group, in Fairfax, Va., said that while Aerojet Rocketdyne has a healthy market, it is not booming. The company makes engines used on the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets that take military and intelligence satellites into space, on missiles systems, and thrusters for satellites. “It would make sense to get as lean as possible when there is not a huge demand for their products,” Caceres said. Rocketdyne has a long history in the Valley where it designed, developed and made the engines for the Saturn V rocket used in NASA’s Apollo program and the main engines for the Space Shuttle program, which kept the company busy until 2011. The company had a second facility in the Valley at Canoga Avenue and Victory Boulevard that it moved out of last year to consolidate at the DeSoto campus. The post-shuttle era has been tough at times for Rocketdyne, which shed employees in 2011 and 2012. It tries to stay relevant in the face of competition from newer space industry players, including Space Exploration Technologies – or SpaceX – in Hawthorne. “Everyone is dealing with the significance of SpaceX on the commercial side driving down the launch costs,” Caceres said. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk. The company has developed the Falcon rocket and the Dragon spacecraft that has flown supply missions to the International Space Station. The Falcon is currently going through a certification process for Pentagon launches. Tucker acknowledged that SpaceX is a competitive threat for legacy companies involved in rocket launch services. For instance, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., is phasing out one model of the Delta IV rocket by 2018 because of competition from SpaceX. Aerojet’s restructuring, however, is in response to market dynamics as a whole and not specifically due to SpaceX, Tucker said. “With the merger of Rocketdyne, it is something that has been on the roadmap,” he said. “It’s about optimizing assets and in some cases we will have to streamline and reduce as we have more than we need.”

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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