AQST Space Systems picks up manufacturing plant in Yuma

It’s been slowly creeping along for a while now, but the world finds itself in the middle of another space race. This time it’s not between countries, but between startup companies with big dreams and advanced technology set to boost their rockets. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already in full swing and Amazon mogul–and the world’s richest person–Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company is set to build rockets in Florida.

Now, a Puerto Rican-based rocket company, AQST Space Systems, will beef up its plans to do the same thing with a new manufacturing plant in Yuma, starting at the end of this year. The company, which planned to move its headquarters to Mesa earlier this year, announced its intentions to manufacture and assemble rockets for small satellites.

In around three years it’s aiming to bring on 125 more employees in Yuma, including engineers, welders, technicians, satellite operators, data scientist managers, and support personnel.

“When companies decide to move their headquarters to our state, it’s a testament to the pro-business climate in Arizona,” said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in a statement earlier this summer. “AQST has confidence in Arizona and its workforce. We are proud they’ve decided to make Arizona their home, as they continue to grow their aerospace and defense company. We congratulate them and wish them success.”

AQST’s main objective is to provide a strategic approach to planning to the space and defense industry. It utilizes space systems, satellites, robotics, automation, and AI to develop its tech. While developing the tech behind rockets is a main focus for the company, it also delivers help for industries such as aerospace, high-tech regulated manufacturing, bio-pharma and life sciences, and scientific research and development.

The research and development facility will be located at the Yuma Defense Contractors Complex, a highly secure area that’s perfect for the company’s overall mission and daily objectives. The main push to secure a spot in Yuma was its proximity to Arizona, California and Mexico. Yuma has a longstanding history of aerospace and defense operations with access to the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds. AQST plans to test out their prototypes in that location.

Two key factors that came into play for AQST was their need for a secure location and strong interest to employ veterans. The Yuma community has an extremely talented workforce and members from the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the US Army Yuma Proving Grounds are exiting the military each year,” says Gladys Brown, airport director for Yuma International Airport. “Yuma’s strategic position within southwestern Arizona gives the aerospace/aviation industry a unique advantage to tap into a natural ‘mega-region’ of resources, talent and connectivity.”

AQST’s announcement that it’s taking its operations and development to Yuma is a testament to the state’s overall ability to attract tech companies to expand their operations. Companies like Nikola Motor Co., a self-driving truck company, Oracle Software, Microsoft, and Apple have already boasted plans to stretch new wings of their companies into Arizona.

Yuma International Airport built the Defense Contractor Complex to encourage businesses, such as AQST, to come to Yuma and take advantage of the resources and military ranges available within this region of the state,” adds Brown. “It is in our makeup to have the ‘can-do’ and ‘let’s make it happen’ spirit in order to grow and retain business.”

Nick Esquer

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