A Cornerstone of L.A.’s Historic Defense Industry Was Sold to Florida

El Segundo’s Aerojet Rocketdyne, which built the engines that sent man to the moon, was sold to a Florida corp for $4.7 billion
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Florida aerospace giant L3Harris Technologies has announced their plans to purchase El Segundo-based Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.7 billion, BizJournals reports. The deal comes a few months after a takeover plan by Lockheed Martin was called off over antitrust concerns. L3Harris outbid General Electric and other defense contractors for the pioneering manufacturer of rockets, missiles, and space engines.

Aerojet was key in establishing the aerospace industry in Southern California during World War II. A bronze plaque on a Bentley dealer in Pasadena marks the spot where Caltech’s Dr. Theodore von Kármán and five other scientists created Aerojet, the first manufacturing facility for the production of rocket propulsion systems, in 1942. Dr. von Kármán was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which continues to build spacecraft exploring Mars and beyond.

Aerospace jobs were fundamental in creating the middle class economy that built modern Los Angeles in the 1950s and 60s. More than 23,000 rocket scientists were employed at one company alone. The industry was at its peak when Rocketdyne in the San Fernando Valley was creating the incredibly powerful engines that sent the Saturn V rockets to the moon. Now, Rocketdyne, Aerojet, and Pratt & Whitney, another legacy engine maker, will be folded into the Florida company.

On DeSoto Avenue, just south of Nordhoff, an enormous engine taller than a T. rex stands in front of the Aerojet Rocketdyne plant. The F-1 is the largest, most powerful single-nozzle, liquid fueled rocket ever made and the knowhow that powered the flight to the moon (as well as the Mars rovers and the Javelin missiles currently helping the Ukrainians fight Russia) came from Los Angeles. All that for about one tenth of what it took to buy Twitter.


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