The company will be a contractor for OneWeb Satellites. Video by Dave Berman/FLORIDA TODAY. Posted Nov. 29, 2016.
It hopes to employ as many as 70 people there within five years.
The company, RUAG Space USA Inc., initially will manufacture satellite structures for OneWeb Satellites. OneWeb will be responsible for the actual manufacture of the satellites. OneWeb will do that work at Space Florida’s Exploration Park at Kennedy Space Center, where it plans to employ 250 people, under a previously announced deal.
RUAG will be the first tenant of the Port Canaveral Logistics Center off U.S. 1 in south Titusville.
The company initially will have about 10 employees when it starts operations in February, with employees getting an average wage of $50,261. It will seek to expand to 20 employees by 2018.
Franck Mouriaux, general manager for structures for RUAG Space and project manager for its OneWeb contract, said RUAG is in discussions with other space companies about potential contracts, and hopes to increase RUAG’s Titusville staff to 60 to 70 within five years.
Space Florida President Frank DiBello said Tuesday’s announcement “truly is just the beginning,” as more space companies choose Florida’s Space Coast for their manufacturing operation.
“Our state’s iconic space legacy is ever-expanding, as RUAG will play a key role within a growing supply chain for the aerospace and satellite industry here in Florida,” DiBello said. “We look forward to being a partner in RUAG’s success, and continuing to work with the community on Florida’s Space Coast to further solidify Florida as a world leader in aerospace.”
RUAG said its structures serve as the backbone for all other modules of a satellite, comparable to an automobile chassis.
RUAG is the company that previously was referred to as “Project Signal” to cloak its identity while it was going through the process of seeking economic development incentives and negotiating a lease with Port Canaveral for 23,800 square feet of space at the Titusville complex.
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The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of RUAG Schweiz AG, a multinational holding company, with $1.8 billion a year in sales in the aerospace, aviation and defense industries. Among its other U.S. operations is an Alabama facility that manufactures payload fairings for some of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rockets.
Urs Breitmeier, chief executive officer of the RUAG Group, in alluding to his company’s relatively low profile in the space industry, said: “We are definitely not the rainmakers, but we are the manufacturer of umbrellas.”
The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast coordinated RUAG’s formal introduction to the Space Coast on Tuesday with a news conference, facility tour and community stakeholders’ meeting attended by about 75 people. Officials from the Consulate of Switzerland, the U.S. Department of Labor, Space Florida, Brevard County, Titusville, Port Canaveral and the North Brevard Economic Development Zone board joined RUAG, OneWeb and Economic Development Commission officials at the event.
OneWeb Satellites plans to manufacture 900 satellites that will be launched into low-Earth orbit. These satellites will offer broadband internet service worldwide, in a project aimed at helping people in developing and newly industrialized nations who do not have access to fast internet service.
RUAG plans to deliver structures for 900 satellites by the end of 2020.
Mouriaux said, when the production is ramped up to full capacity by the end of 2017, his company will be working on 32 satellites a month.
“It’s something that has never been done before, not only in the volume, but also in the time frame,” Mouriaux said. “It’s a very, very challenging program that we have ahead of us.”
“The aerospace industry is undergoing a disruptive transformation,” RUAG Space USA Inc. Chief Executive Officer Peter Guggenbach said, in announcing the expansion into Titusville. “In what’s known as the ‘new space’ segment, innovative startups and private investors are developing new commercial business models for aerospace applications. We want to be a competitive player in this segment, too. The current order from Airbus OneWeb Satellites proves that we’re on the right path.”
Lynda Weatherman, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, said RUAG’s selection of the Titusville site for its production facility “further strengthens Brevard County’s standing as a premier location for aerospace businesses throughout the world.”
The EDC and Space Florida have been in contact with RUAG for more than a decade about business opportunities along the Space Coast, including about a year related to the current project.
Weatherman said the EDC also helped guide the company through state and North Brevard Economic Development Zone economic incentive programs.
RUAG plans to invest $2.6 million at the Titusville facility: $600,000 for construction-related work and $2 million for equipment.
Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner Micah Loyd, who also is a member of the North Brevard Economic Development Zone board, said bringing companies like RUAG to Titusville is “a key to changing our economy.”
Brevard County Commission Vice Chairwoman Rita Pritchett, who represents North Brevard, called Tuesday “a great day in Brevard County,” telling RUAG officials: “We hope you get real prosperous with us.”
Pritchett also credited the North Brevard Economic Development Zone board with helping “establish North Brevard as a pro-business-friendly region throughout the nation.”
“This is just the start of a wonderful relationship,” Titusville Mayor Walt Johnson said.
For Port Canaveral, the deal with RUAG represents the first tenant at its 246,240-square-foot logistics center at 7700 U.S. 1, which it acquired from Flagler Global Logistics in May for about $18 million. The port initially had planned to lease the building from Flagler, which developed the site. But port commissioners decided it would make more financial sense to buy the building outright.
Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said negotiations are in the works with other potential tenants for the complex.
Port Authority Vice Chairman Wayne Justice said he expects the port’s ongoing work on a long-term master plan will dovetail with efforts to establish stronger connections between the port and the commercial space industry.
In a statement, Enterprise Florida Executive Vice President Mike Grissom called RUAG Space USA “a strong addition to Florida’s aerospace industry,” adding: “We welcome them and their global expertise to the Space Coast.”
In noting the high-tech business expansions within North Brevard, North Brevard Economic Development Zone Secretary Robert Jordan said: “It’s a privilege to have a front-row seat” on the area’s economic comeback.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ByDaveBerman and on Facebook at facebook.com/dave.berman.54