Press Release

It Is ‘Rocket Science’ — For 50 Years

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2005
Filed under , ,

Rocketdyne this month celebrates its 50th anniversary, originating as North American Aviation’s fledgling rocket engine business on Nov. 7, 1955, and evolving today into Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a worldwide leader in defense and commercial space propulsion. Rocketdyne joined the Pratt & Whitney space division of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX – News) on Aug. 3, 2005.

Combining the talents and expertise of both entities, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne now promises to be the world’s premier propulsion company, with a focus on the nation’s defense and commercial space needs, and on America’s Vision for Space Exploration. The company also will play a leading role in developing new energy resources, helping to meet the space power needs of the nation.

The first rocket engines out of Rocketdyne’s Southern California factory went into missile silos. They were ready warriors in the Cold War. But soon after, siblings of those same rockets were put into service in a massive American program to access space.

In 1958, a Rocketdyne engine was used to launch the nation’s first satellite, Explorer 1, into deep space.

Three years later, a Rocketdyne engine boosted Alan Shepard into space as America’s first astronaut, and in 1962 Rocketdyne provided the booster engine for America’s first orbiting astronaut, John Glenn.

During the same period, Rocketdyne successfully sent the SNAP-10A, the world’s first nuclear reactor, into orbit. Rocketdyne also built an experimental nuclear reactor that provided electric power for a Los Angeles suburb.

In the Apollo era, Rocketdyne engines created the enormous power that carried American astronauts to the Moon — and helped bring them back safely.

And today, Rocketdyne engines continue to send the Space Shuttle into orbit — as they have for 24 years — as well as supply the lift for Delta expendable launch vehicles for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

“Thousands of people have worked at Rocketdyne over the last 50 years,” said Byron Wood, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. “Their unique talents and energy have been responsible for our success. They never failed to meet a challenge. So when you look to the leadership of America in space, both then and now, those are the people you’ll often see. I’m enormously proud to have been with them.”

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne today employs 3,700 people in California, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc., a subsidiary of Pratt & Whitney, offers a complete line of propulsion products, from boosters to upper stage engines. These have been used in a wide variety of government and commercial applications, including the Space Shuttles’ main engines, and propulsion systems for the Atlas and Delta expendable launch vehicles. Pratt & Whitney is a unit of United Technologies Corp., a diversified company based in Hartford, Conn., which provides high technology products and services to the commercial building industry and the military and commercial aerospace industry. Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines.


John Mitchell

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc.

(818) 586-4564

SpaceRef staff editor.