Sierra Nevada To Close California Propulsion Facility

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WASHINGTON — Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) is in the process of closing a California facility that has worked on hybrid propulsion systems, a move the company said Nov. 25 will not result in staff cuts beyond a previously announced round of layoffs.

In a statement provided to SpaceNews, SNC spokeswoman Krystal Scordo said the company plans to close its Poway, California, office as it consolidates propulsion work across the company. The closure of the office is “ongoing,” she said, and will be completed early next year.

“In November, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems concluded a limited workforce reduction in Poway, California, that had previously been announced in September,” Scordo said. “No additional layoffs were conducted.” Those not laid off there will be reassigned to other SNC offices, she said.

In June, SNC acquired Madison, Wisconsin-based Orbital Technologies Corp., or ORBITEC, which also develops rocket engines. “As a result of the 2014 acquisition of ORBITEC, which specializes in propulsion systems, SNC is consolidating all of its propulsion related activities, including our hybrid motor technology, into one operating business unit,” Scordo said.

That move also comes after SNC’s hybrid propulsion business suffered several setbacks. In May, Virgin Galactic announced it was switching the rocket motor it plans to use on its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle from one produced by SNC to one developed internally. In September, SNC lost a NASA commercial crew contract to Boeing and SpaceX. SNC’s entry into the competition, Dream Chaser, used hybrid propulsion. Although the company is protesting the award, it announced in September that as a result of the NASA decision it would lay off about 100 employees, including some in Poway.

The facility, in suburban San Diego, previously served as the headquarters of SpaceDev, which SNC acquired in 2008. SpaceDev also developed hybrid rocket motors there, including those used by Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne suborbital vehicle that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.