How a missile expansion in Utah will boost the world

Northrop Grumman is planning massive expansions in western Salt Lake County that will power the Space Force, NASA, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

(Photo: Business Wire) Artistic concept of the Vulcan Centaur rocket by United Launch Alliance, one of three heavy lift launch providers selected by Amazon for Project Kuiper. Northrop Grumman plans to expand its operations in Utah to advance this project.

What has been on Salt Lake County Council’s agenda this week as a routine rezoning request will help create a cost-effective broadband option for underserved communities around the world.

Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to reclassify 35 acres on the West Bank from agricultural zones to manufacturing zones to allow aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman to expand its rocket motor manufacturing plant.

The growth of the Bacchus West plant, just outside of Magna, is primarily related to a deal with United Launch Alliance announced on Wednesday.

The partnership, valued at more than $2 billion, will provide boosters for United Launch Alliance rockets, which in turn will support the US Space Force and NASA.

It will also benefit Amazon’s Project Kuiper, a constellation of satellites that promises to bring affordable broadband around the world.

(Photo: Business Wire) Overhead of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, one of three heavy lift launch providers selected by Amazon for Project Kuiper (with a mockup of the Amazon logo). Northrop Grumman plans to expand its operations in Utah to advance this project.

John Slaughter, senior director of commercial programs for Northrop Grumman’s space systems sector, said the agreement is the continuation of a decade-long relationship between the companies.

“It cements that relationship,” he said, “for years to come, I think.”

Northrop Grumman expects to spend $450 million on the Bacchus expansion, with most of that sum being spent in Salt Lake County and the state, Brian Tucker, interim planning director for the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District, told council members.

The company expects to create about 200 long-term jobs in high-tech manufacturing.

To fulfill the contract, rocket motors will be manufactured at several plants in Utah, including Bacchus, Promontory, and Clearfield. All of these facilities will grow to meet increased demand, the company said, but Bacchus will see the biggest expansion.

Northrop Grumman plans to construct nine new buildings in unincorporated Salt Lake County as part of the modernization, five of which are in the rezoned area.

The buildings in the repurposed area are used for pouring liquid fuel into rocket casings. The boosters are then sent to a final assembly building in neighboring West Valley City.

The company says it will produce new iterations of rocket boosters it already makes.

According to the district, the expansion will not have any new negative effects on the area and does not contradict the recently approved General Plan West. However, it creates hurdles with grading, increased runoff, and diversion of a stream that flows through the acreage.

“We have identified a number of significant challenges,” Tucker said, “but to date there has been no indication that these potential impacts cannot be mitigated.”

The danger zones already set up around the plant remain unchanged.

A groundbreaking at the Bacchus site is expected in August. Before the project can proceed, Northrop Grumman must obtain a conditional use permit from the county.

Editor’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism. How a missile expansion in Utah will boost the world

Joel McCord

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