Skilled to Work: Aerojet Rocketdyne moves production of large solid rocket motor casings to Huntsville

The carbon fiber winding process previously done in Sacramento, California, will now be done in the Rocket City.

Posted: Dec 26, 2019 9:47 PM
Updated: Dec 26, 2019 10:20 PM

Aerojet Rocketdyne is moving another part of its manufacturing capabilities to Huntsville. This time it's their manufacturing of large solid rocket motor casings created through carbon fiber winding.

It also relocated much of it's personnel that specializes in that type of manufacturing. For Manufacturing Engineer Bob Bertolucci, he's embracing the change and exploring a different part of the country.

Aerojet Rocketdyne's new carbon fiber-winding machine used to make large solid rocket motor casings. Aerojet Rocketdyne's new carbon fiber-winding machine used to make large solid rocket motor casings.

"Most of our family lives in California, so we’re out here exploring the East Coast and the South and enjoying it very much," said Bertolucci.

He has been in the aerospace industry for nearly 40 years. Bertolucci said while in Sacramento, he left the world biology to pursue a career in composite manufacturing.

"I was going to graduate school for biology and met somebody that was actually working at Aerojet and they had just started a research and development laboratory in Sacramento. So from there, he gave me his boss’s name and pestered him until they gave me a job," said Bertolucci.

This year, he left the City of Trees for the Rocket City when Aerojet Rocketdyne announced it was moving the production of the rocket engine casings.

The machine they moved to the Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF) in Huntsville is able to create cases up o 72 inches in diameter and 22 feet long, which can support strategic missile programs.

"That has a big strategic need for the strategic deterrence and targeting vehicles and things of that nature," said Bertolucci.

In fact, that capability helped Aerojet recently secure a partnership with Northrop Grumman's National Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Team.

"In addition, we employ one more axis of motion so we can apply the fiber more accurately with this type of arrangement to get better performance out of our composite products," said Bertolucci.

Because Huntsville doesn't have a large workforce trained in composites, they rely in part on the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) to help bring them candidates who go through extensive on-the-job training.

"It can be a lengthy process too, learning curve as they say. So it depends on what we’re building, obviously, but it has to be built right. So we take our time in training them," said Jerrod, a senior composite analyst.

The first motor casings are scheduled to start rolling out of the AMF in early 2020.

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