At a time when many businesses are cutting back, Orbital Sciences Corp. will break ground Thursday on an 82,000-square-foot expansion of its rocket development and production campus in south Chandler.
The expansion, whose price tag was not revealed Tuesday, will provide office and engineering space for about 300 Orbital employees.
Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Development Corp. will construct and own the building, and Orbital will rent the space under a long-term lease.
The building will be the first phase of a three-building complex that Gilbane will build for Orbital atPrice and Dobson roads. The timing of the later phases will depend on business conditions, said Orbital spokesman Barry Beneski.
Orbital, based in Dulles, Va., already houses nearly 1,500 employees and contractors at an existing 350,000-square-foot complex across Price Road from the expansion site.
Orbital has signed an 11-year lease with the W.P. Carey real estate company to continue occupying that building.
"We have made a strong commitment to Chandler," Beneski said.
When the three buildings are completed, the project will create 232,000 square feet of floor space for nearly 1,000 additional employees.
The Orbital expansion is part of a new mixed-use development by Gilbane called the Waters at Ocotillo.
That 74-acre project will include residential condos, retail stores and restaurants in addition to commercial space.
Although the national economy is slowing, Orbital is expanding because its business is government oriented, Beneski said.
"We have long-term contracts with the (federal) government for products and services that will be needed by the country irrespective of macroeconomic conditions," he said.
The company makes rocket components in Chandler for the Pentagon's missile defense system, which Beneski said will continue to be needed because of dangerous world conditions.
Also Orbital is developing a new and larger launch vehicle called the Taurus II, which will be able to propel 10,000 pounds of supplies to the international space station. That project will create additional work in Chandler, Beneski said.