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About 200 workers in Chandler are building a 203-feet tall rocket — the biggest yet for Orbital ATK’s launch vehicle division.
By comparison, the Saturn V rocket that launched astronauts to the moon in 1969 was 363 feet tall.
The effort is expected to require an additional 600 employees by 2020, according to a company spokeswoman.
Virginia-based Orbital ATK has operations in Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. The Chandler facility employs more than 1,500 people and is looking to fill about 150 openings. The company anticipates hiring another 250 contract jobs by the end of the year, spokeswoman Trina Patterson said.
Bigger rocket, bigger payload
The rocket is designed to carry heavier payloads and has been developed in partnership with the United States Air Force.
By 2021, the new rocket should be ready to launch larger satellites and other national security equipment used by the Air Force, according to the company.
Orbital ATK and the Air Force invested more than $200 million into the program from 2015 to 2017 and anticipate spending “hundreds of millions more,” according to the company.
The rocket is part of the company’s Next Generation Launch System program that aims to reduce the cost of firing rockets into space.
As for the rocket’s name, that “will be coming later,” Patterson said.
Another of the company’s rockets will launch in May to send supplies to the International Space Station, Patterson said.
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