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A facility to manufacture directed energy weapons and satellite components opened Thursday near Kirtland Air Force Base – the latest addition to the local space industry.
Virginia-based engineering firm BlueHalo LLC opened a 73,000-square-foot research and development, manufacturing and office space within Sandia Science and Technology Park, which is located just off the northeast part of KAFB.
BlueHalo now has more than 200,000 square feet of office space around Albuquerque, but the building that opened Thursday marks its first local manufacturing site.
“Our history is more of a research and development type organization. We’re transitioning a lot of those products into production as we get more and more orders,” said Katie Selbe, BlueHalo’s chief operating officer. “Our plan is to do a lot of that production here.”
Local leaders, including Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller attended the opening, saying it will be a crucial addition to Albuquerque’s labor force. Company and state officials said BlueHalo will likely hire an initial 70 or so people for high-paying jobs now that the facility has opened.
The facility was renovated with the help of $16 million in industrial revenue bonds. The project also received $2.25 million in state Local Economic Development Act funding from the New Mexico Economic Development Department, said Mark Roper, division director of the department. The company said it also received $250,000 in city
of Albuquerque Economic Development Department LEDA funding.
The company did not disclose how much it invested on the renovations.
BlueHalo has recently obtained lucrative contracts for work to be done in the Albuquerque area. Earlier this year, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office at KAFB awarded BlueHalo a $1.4 billion contract to build a new state-of-the-art communications system for satellites. It also received a 10-year, $80 million contract to build a “virtual range” for real-time modeling and simulation of new directed energy technology for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, which is based at Kirtland.
“BlueHalo’s rapid growth in recent years is really emblematic of how successful we have been at building a thriving local innovation ecosystem here in Albuquerque,” Heinrich said.
Selbe said the renovated facility will focus on directed energy and space technology. BlueHalo’s LOCUST Laser Weapon System, which uses radio frequencies and directed energy to shoot down unmanned aerial systems, or drones, and high-tech components for satellites will be built in Albuquerque.
“It’s … a state-of-the-art manufacturing space to make those concepts a reality,” she said.