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Global Space Tech Company Opens Manufacturing Facility

Rep. Ro Khanna speaks at Orbion.

Orbion space simulator

Orbion thruster

Orbion panel discussion (Orbion CEO Brad King on left)

Orbion Space Technology recently cut the ribbon on a new rocket manufacturing facility in Houghton, MI.

Orbion Space Technology recently cut the ribbon on a new rocket manufacturing facility in Houghton, MI, where it has the capacity to manufacture 1,000 plasma thrusters annually for small satellites critical for defense and communication.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) from Silicon Valley attended the ribbon cutting, which was held in partnership with MTEC SmartZone-a start-up incubator and accelerator affiliated with Michigan Technological University-and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Orbion was founded in 2016 by two rocket scientists, CEO Brad King and CTO Jason Sommerville, who saw the growth coming in the space industry and knew small satellite propulsion would be needed. The pair enrolled in MTEC SmartZone's Transformative Technologies program, which helped them grow into a business that now employs 50 full-time people in northern Michigan. The new facility is the next phase in factory buildout for Orbion, which will allow it to scale up its plasma thruster production, meeting the demands of customers like General Atomics and Raytheon Technologies.

While northern Michigan is not a traditional hotspot of aerospace manufacturing, King sees it as a perfect fit: "We get to do the work we believe in while living in a place we love. Hardly anyone gets both of those at the same time. When people ask me why we built a rocket company in northern Michigan, I reply that northern Michigan is as close to outer space as any spot on the planet, so why not here?"

In addition to the ribbon cutting, a panel discussion was held at the event, where tech employers and investors discussed how to succeed with tech and manufacturing in America's heartland.

"There is nothing more high-tech than a plasma thruster, and nothing more heartland than northern Michigan," said King. "A distinct advantage that Midwest-based companies have over tech on the coasts is this that the people who choose to live here stay here. In six years, we have had one resignation. The workforce for tech jobs in rural America is stable, and that is a huge competitive advantage."

Orbion is one of more than 70 companies that MTEC SmartZone has mentored, incubated and/or accelerated since 2015. The results are becoming evident: Houghton County grew in population by 2% between the 2010 and 2020 census, and those numbers are on the rise, according to MTEC.

"Job growth in rural America is not restricted to remote work," said David Rowe, CEO of MTEC SmartZone. "Orbion is a prime example of manufacturing coming back to the United States, with the kind of employer a community can be built around."

For more information contact:

Orbion Space Technology

101 W Lakeshore Drive

Houghton, MI 49931

MTEC SmartZone

600 E Lakeshore Drive

Houghton, MI 49931


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