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Boeing satellite-making operation in El Segundo turns 50

August 24, 2011 |  3:59 pm


Boeing Co.'s sprawling satellite-making operation in El Segundo celebrated its 50th anniversary Wednesday with an event attended by high-ranking company officials, local media and politicians.

Since it was first opened in 1961, the plant has produced satellites used for research, exploration, communication, navigation, entertainment, intelligence and surveillance.

The El Segundo plant encompasses more than 1 million square feet and belonged to Hughes Space and Communications Co. before it became part of Boeing in 2000.

“We made history in the 1960s, when our team of scientists designed and built the first geosynchronous satellite, which launched the satellite industry,” said Boeing's Craig Cooning, Space & Intelligence Systems vice president and general manager, in a statement.

The company is developing sport-utility-sized satellites that are part of an $8-billion GPS upgrade that will make the system more reliable, more widespread and more accurate.

Boeing’s workforce at the plant currently stands at around 5,500. It has backlog of 27 orders. At its peak in the 1990s, Boeing had employed more than 10,000 at the complex, which is near Los Angeles International Airport.

The operation began experiencing a resurgence last year, snagging orders for several large commercial satellites, placing the company atop the large commercial satellite market.

U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, a Democrat whose district includes El Segundo, made a speech at Wednesday's event.

"There's not a day goes by that someone on this planet doesn’t benefit from the satellites you produce," said Hahn. "This facility is key to the industrial base here in the South Bay and helps to anchor the aerospace industry in Southern California. It is a national asset that has produced nearly 300 satellites -- everything from the first communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit to the most recent GPS IIF satellite that was launched last month."


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Photo: A commercial satellite under construction for Intelsat will go through a series of rigorous tests at the El Segundo facility.  Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times