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Virginia-based aerospace and defense firm Orbital ATK opened a 60,000-square-foot workspace in Gilbert for its engineers working on the satellites being manufactured next door.

In the next five years, Orbital ATK will be hiring 155 employees to work at the satellite engineering facility, said Rick Kettner, Orbital ATK Gilbert site director.

The engineering building opened this week and has 200 employees on site. The engineers moved from Orbital ATK’s Fiesta Boulevard offices in Gilbert. Combined, the Gilbert campus, located near McQueen and Elliot roads, currently employs 385 people.

When engineers need to work side by side with the workers at the manufacturing site, they no longer have to commute by car, and can simply walk from the newest site to the manufacturing facility.

Many aerospace firms have their operations dispersed across the nation, Kettner said, including Orbital ATK. But due to the sophistication of space work, there are some things that need to be located together, like Orbital ATK’s Gilbert-based space operations, he said.

“It really helps to have face-to-face contact where you can sit shoulder to shoulder,” Kettner said.

Orbital ATK is manufacturing three different types of satellites at its 370,00-square-foot Gilbert site, which opened over ten years ago. One of the biggest satellite programs Orbital ATK is working on is Iridium NEXT, which has Orbital ATK manufacturing 81 satellites in Gilbert at a rate of five a month.

The new offices have many open, collaborative spaces for engineers. One of the main hallways had a model of a satellite hanging from the ceiling and there are satellite diagrams splayed on the white walls of the offices.

Many of the workspaces are in cubicles, which have white boards and plenty of surfaces the engineers can write on, which is a nice touch, one engineer remarked. During a tour of the offices, engineers could be found huddled in groups within the cubicles.

Kettner said more traditional office layouts, including in the world of engineering, offices are spread out, almost discouraging collaboration. But the new Gilbert facility is doing just the opposite.

“(This space) invites collaboration, fosters collaboration. It’s really breaking through that next level of sophistication to try to get us to the next level of satellite design,” Kettner said.

The facility was completed in just 16 months. In Arizona, Orbital ATK has over 1,953 employees working in Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa. Orbital ATK has been making satellites in Gilbert since 1989.

Jesse Millard is digital editor at AZ Big Media. He can be reached at jesse(dot)millard(@)azbigmedia(dot)com