‘Space Beach’ Taking Hold in Long Beach’s Former Aerospace Landmarks

By: 
Jon LeSage
Relativity Space plant in Long Beach.

Outgoing Mayor Robert Garcia’s vision of Long Beach becoming known as ‘Space Beach’ is looking good, with major moves coming to former assembly plants and hangars operated years ago by McDonnell Douglas and most recently by Boeing.

Some of the acreage has been taken over by space travel companies at the Port of Long Beach, including SpaceX.

Most of Space Beach has been taking place at the 200-acre Douglas Park, located near the corner of Carson Street and Lakewood Boulevard in Long Beach. In recent years as Boeing gradually exited, it became a fast-growing proving ground for startups and established veterans in aerospace, space travel and satellite networks.

Douglas Park pays homage to aviation pioneer Donald Douglas, who started Douglas Aircraft Co. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft Co. Douglas originally acquired the land in 1940 to build an aircraft manufacturing facility right next to Long Beach Airport. The airport and surrounding land grew to become a significant base for commercial jets, small private planes and military fighter jets; and to many of their supplier partners.

McDonnell Douglas had a strong presence in Long Beach, which continued after Boeing’s buyout in 1997 and focus on its C-17 military cargo planes.

That historic trend has taken a new turn, with growth and expansion picking up again. Long Beach has become home base, or the location of a sizable satellite facility, for a few major players in aerospace, satellites and space travel.

In January, NASA selected some of them for its Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions, which is where NASA has been headed in recent years after its space shuttle flights went away. Three companies on NASA’s list are based in Long Beach – Relativity Space, Rocket Lab USA Inc. and Virgin Orbit LLC. Two of them, SpaceX and ABL Space Systems, have recently set up facilities at the port.

Relativity Space Taking Much of the Land

About 93-acres of land west of the Long Beach Airport has gone to Relativity Space, a young company that will use the land to develop manufacturing technologies and to launch vehicles and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services; much of that will take place at a 1.1 million-square-foot former Boeing hangar at Goodman Commerce Center on Wardlow Road in Long Beach.

Relativity Space is quite proud of its 3D printed rockets. The company vertically integrates robotics, software and patented 3D printing technologies to digitize manufacturing.

The company just signed a multi-year agreement with broadband constellation company OneWeb to launch its low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites starting in 2025. Relativity will launch OneWeb’s second generation satellite network on Terran R, a 3D printed rocket.

Relativity’s manufacturing plant is on its way to becoming one of the largest headquarters in the private space industry. The company’s headquarters operation will have capacity for more than 2,000 employees, a metallurgical laboratory, DMLS printers, a mission control center and dozens of the company’s proprietary Stargate 3D printers.

Douglas Park the Epicenter for Many of the New Companies

Local commercial developers and city officials have had much hope for Douglas Park to be a healthy, robust location for office space, retail stores, restaurants, visitor attractions and corporate centers for employers. The city has granted five development projects in Douglas Park, with three completed and two still under review.

In recent years, several companies have set up shop in Douglas Park, filling some of the job loss from the Boeing closures. Here’s a look at a few of these companies in the aerospace, space travel, satellite and automotive sectors.

SpinLaunch
4350 E. Conant St.,
Long Beach, CA 90808

SpinLaunch is a spaceflight technology development company working on mass accelerator technology to move payloads to space. The company aims to develop a rocket that can reach 5,000 miles per hour.

Virgin Galactic & Virgin Orbit
4022 E. Conant St.
Long Beach, CA 90808

Virgin Galactic calls itself the world’s first commercial spaceline. Virgin Orbit is a company that provides launch services for small satellites.

Rubbercraft
3701 Conant St.
Long Beach, CA 90808

Rubbercraft is an engineered solutions company with specialization in precision engineered, custom elastomeric parts and elastomeric tooling for composites manufacturing.

Mercedes-Benz Vehicle Preparation Center (VPC)
3860 N. Lakewood Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90808

M-B took over Boeing’s land on the east side of Lakewood Blvd. It’s one of four VPC facilities that the automaker operates for its U.S. dealer network. The VPC can perform vehicle inspections, factory campaigns, full paint and body and mechanical repairs.

SpaceX and ABL Come to Long Beach

Across town over in the Port of Long Beach, SpaceX has taken over 6.5 acres and is now a neighbor to ABL Space Systems, which is aiming to house up to 60 employees at its new facility. ABL has 8 acres to access. Both companies are based at Pier T at the Port of Long Beach.

SpaceX, the Hawthorne-based space transport company started by Elon Musk prior to his electric carmaker Tesla, inked a deal with Long Beach last year in May. The company says that its Long Beach site will be used for docking vessels and offloading equipment, warehousing and office space. It will also be the company’s new west                                                     coast launch vehicle recovery center.

In October, El Segundo-based ABL Space Systems, a company that develops low-cost rockets to launch satellites, made its own deal to enter that area and take over available land right next to SpaceX at the Port of Long Beach. ABL describes its facility at the port as a spacecraft processing facility with office and warehouse space; and that the waterfront area will be used for delivery and shipping of cargo.

 

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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