Palm Beach County's 'best kept secret' is Aerojet Rocketdyne

Posted at 4:12 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 18:39:29-05

Head west on Beeline Highway, and eventually you'll run into Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Ironically in Jupiter.

"We're one of Palm Beach County's best kept secrets, " says site director Jim Maus.

Here they're building and testing rocket engines for space exploration. One will power the GOES-R satellite.

It's not even easy to see one of these engines up close.

In the clean room, we have to remove our jewelry and empty our pockets.

"Have absolutely nothing that can get into this engine that's not supposed to be there," says Matt Bernfeld, assembly operations manager.

We wear lab coats and safety glasses. Everything in the clean room is controlled.

"Right around 70 degrees every day. No more than 60% humidity. Everything is controlled, right down to the minute detail," says Bernfeld.

The engines are built in the clean room, a process that takes about two years. Then they're tested in a simulated space environment.

"During the run I'm here looking at the engine, making sure pressures, temperatures and vibrations are within spec. And we do the fine-tuning," says test engineer Jim Nord.

If or when the engine passes, it's sent off to be installed on the spacecraft.

Then it's a team effort on launch day.

"We have our employees on headsets in front of monitors," says Moss.

"He goes through the roll, calls out the various systems. He'll say RL-10 and I say 'go' if everything looks okay," says Daimon Clarett, product support engineer.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has developed engines for spacecraft sent to asteroids, deep space, every planet in the solar system and weather satellites, like GOES-R.

Now they're working to help send humans to the International Space Station and Mars.

"We're constantly pushing the envelope," says Nord.

The future is bright for the space industry. Part of the power can be found right here in Palm Beach County.

"It's the perfect co-existence of nature and technology. Where we have alligators in the parking lot and rockets firing on the test stand all at the same time," says Nord.