Minnesota aerospace company developing new space launch system for NASA

Minnesota aerospace company working with NASA

Minnesota aerospace company working with NASA

A Black-owned aerospace engineering company in the Twin Cities is working on a new launch system for NASA that will reach deep space for the first time.

ION Corporation, located in Eden Prairie, has been working on building a space launch system for NASA for the last decade.

When a rocket climbs into space, years of hard work travel with it.

“You have to do a lot of problem-solving. At the end of the day, it’s really technical and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Tony Giebel, ION Corporation’s senior program manager, said.

The space launch system will travel across the solar system, to Mars and into the unknown for the first time. The goal is to conduct research to learn more about the environment.

Giebel has a front-row seat to the groundbreaking technology.

He explained the work takes skill, precision and thousands of pieces to make the system whole.

Engineers test every part in an environment that replicates space to make sure it works when it leaves Earth.

“I think it’s cool,” Giebel said. I”‘m an aerospace engineer at heart. I love working for ION and the stuff that we do is so incredible.”

When Wendell Maddox, ION Corporation’s president and CEO, started the company in 1984, creating opportunity was the first priority.

He said about 75% of his employees are minorities and/or women.

ION is also planning to expand and build another facility in North Minneapolis, where more than 100 jobs will be created.

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The company is making strides in the industry. Engineers built a handful of systems for NASA that made a national impact.

“These are the things that I fantasized about when I was a child,” Maddox said. “I’ve only read about and heard about creating these things. It’s more than I ever thought I’d be able to accomplish.”

Engineers agree — witnessing a rocket launch into space makes the years of hard work worth it.

“Watching all that hard work, knowing the dollars and the resources included in it, and watch it go off successfully is a satisfaction that you can’t get anywhere else,” Giebel said.

Company leaders said the system they’re building will launch in 2024. It will be the farthest trip in space that man has ever seen.