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Ursa Major purchases 90-acre property in Berthoud, ramps up hiring and production

With its recent acquisition of its own facilities and property at 19750 Weld County Road 7, rocket engine manufacturer Ursa Major Technologies Inc. is set to expand and ramp up production for the budding private aerospace industry.

Ursa Major had leased space at the property — a 90-acre former Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. test facility in the Berthoud Tech Center — since 2016, when it subleased a small bunker building. In 2019, it began leasing the rest of the space. Then last month, it purchased the land for $7 million.

“We’d always wanted to buy this land,” Ursa Major chief operations officer Nick Doucette told BizWest. “It was always part of our plan to secure the capital to complete this purchase.”

The idea for Ursa Major germinated in 2014, Doucette said, when the founders began to think about the biggest barrier for entry for new rocket companies: the time and money required to develop their own engine. That is hard enough without vertically integrated companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin having a two-decade head start.

High of 25 with freezing rain and snow today in Longmont
“We realized that horizontal integration could work here,” Doucette said. “For example, when you fly a United plane, United didn’t build the plane. It bought the plane from Boeing. And Boeing didn’t build the engine, it bought the engine from GE.”

That’s what Ursa Major does: manufacture rocket engines as a third party and sell them to rocket companies, thereby allowing them to skip that intensive step. Ursa Major now has two customer pipelines for the two types of engines it develops: regular rocket engines and hypersonic engines.

“We’ve seen a few companies start because of our existence, because we enable them,” Doucette said.

The facility in Berthoud is a big part of why Ursa Major is able to do this. It’s one of the only places in the world where rocket design, manufacturing and testing facilities are co-located.

“Being co-located is a huge strategic advantage for us,” Doucette said. “It’s a huge recruiting tactic. It saves a huge amount of time … It quickly became evident that this was an awesome piece of property with incredible buildings and location. It became evident as we grew that we wanted to stay here and cement ourselves long term. We’re super proud of the support Berthoud has given us.”

And the town has been happy to have them. Walt Elish, business development manager for Berthoud, said the town had always eyed the site as a prime spot for industrial development. When Ursa Major moved into one building at the facility in 2016, Elish said, no one anticipated how fast they’d grow.

“I want to emphasize how great a company they are,” Elish said. “They’re a great corporate citizen.”

Ursa Major has grown to 141 employees. By the end of 2022, Doucette said, it will have between 200 and 250. One of the company’s reasons for wanting to buy the facility was to make it easier to expand the office and amenities space to house all those new workers. With them on board, it plans to deliver between 30 and 50 rocket engines this year, with production continuing to ramp up.

“It’s been a great ride with them,” Elish said.

This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news organization, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWest Media LLC.

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