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Rockwell Begins SDI Project Expansion

May 16, 1987|CARLA LAZZARESCHI | Times Staff Writer

Rockwell International Corp. began construction Friday of an addition to its Seal Beach plant--a facility that will be devoted exclusively to projects related to the nation's embryonic Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars, military project.

The 100,000-square-foot building, believed to be the first in the nation dedicated entirely to SDI work, is expected to open in mid-1988 with about 400 employees. About 75% of the workers will be transferred from existing Rockwell plants throughout Southern California, and the remainder will be new hires.

Rockwell officials said the company currently holds about $350 million worth of contracts for SDI work.

The projects include research on space-based lasers, surveillance and systems to intercept and destroy incoming missiles. Rockwell is the nation's seventh largest Star Wars defense contractor.

The new $14.5-million facility, which will serve as the headquarters for all of Rockwell's SDI work, has been designed with expansion clearly in mind.

Although it initially will be built with two stories, plans call for two additional levels to be added as needed. At full capacity, the building will house about 1,000 employees.

However, Rockwell President Donald R. Beall took note of the still-tentative status of the Strategic Defense Initiative project in his comments at Friday's ground breaking.

"As at the outset of any truly visionary, yet practical, research program, SDI is drawing its share of criticism," he said. "We think it is here to stay and that SDI technology--as complex as it is-- will raise significantly our nation's defense capability."

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