Aerospace giant Boeing Co. has a long history of supporting the nation’s space and defense industries from Alabama.
Boeing’s involvement in Huntsville began when it set up operations to advance the initial development of the Saturn V rocket’s Stage 1 booster. The company’s Huntsville workforce, which started with a handful of employees working in a downtown hotel in 1962, has remained active in the space program ever since, playing a key role in the design, development and production of the International Space Station, among other things.
Today, Boeing has more than 2,700 employees in Alabama, primarily in Huntsville, where it remains one of the area’s largest employers. More than half of its Huntsville employees work in key engineering disciplines including industrial, design, systems and stress. In Alabama today, Boeing is taking a lead role in developing NASA’s Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket the space agency has ever developed.
Boeing’s Alabama operation is also heavily involved in U.S. missile defense programs. Its Strategic Missile Defense Systems (SM&DS) is based in Huntsville, as is the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, the nation’s only protection against long-range ballistic missile attacks. SM&DS operations in Huntsville include programs such as the Arrow Weapon System, the Avenger and the PAC-3 seeker.
The Huntsville Design Center has been another pillar of the company’s Alabama presence. Engineers at the Design Center focus on commercial aircraft such as the 737 and 787 airliners and derivatives such as the KC-46A refueling tanker. They have also played a role in designing the 777X airliner, the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world.
In 2015, Boeing officially opened a new research and technology center in Huntsville as the company’s hub for collaboration with academic institutions and research partners in analytics and simulation in the Southeast. The engineers and technicians working in Boeing Research & Technology-Alabama’s 80,000 square feet of labs and offices are devoted to the creation and development of technologies for use in current and future Boeing products.