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Boeing’s Satellite Orders Skyrocket

The boom in satellites used to relay civilian television, telecommunications and navigation information around the globe is keeping them busy at the Boeing Co. space division plant in Huntington Beach.

That’s the former McDonnell Douglas space operation, and it’s where the venerable Delta rocket is assembled.

This year, Boeing has orders for a record 14 Delta launches--all but three for private customers including Hughes Space and Communications International Inc., Motorola Corp. and the Iridium telecommunications conglomerate.

The schedule “illustrates the commercialization of space,” said Jay Witzling, division director of Boeing’s Delta II and Titan rocket programs. “The high number of commercial missions reflects the needs of the burgeoning telecommunications industry.”

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Preliminary assembly of each 126-foot Delta II is done in a tall, hangar-like building, where workers wrap up to seven engines around the cylindrical core. Final assembly of each rocket is done at Boeing’s plant in Pueblo, Colo. The rocket engines are designed and built by Rocketdyne--another recent Boeing acquisition--in Los Angeles.

The next Delta launch is scheduled Thursday in Florida. The payload is a quartet of satellites for the Globalstar telecommunications network, a consortium led by Loral Space & Communications in New York and Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego.

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John O’Dell covers major Orange County corporations and manufacturing for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5831 and at john.odell@latimes.com.

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