Container and cruise ships will soon not be the only things taking off from the Port of Los Angeles. Starting this summer, satellite-carrying rockets will launch from ocean-based units operated by Mojave’s Interorbital Systems.

Interorbital, which builds rockets designed to launch very small satellites, or nanosatellites, has rented a roughly 80-foot-long commercial berth at the port to store one of the units, said Chief Executive Randa Milliron.

Milliron started the company in 1996 with her husband, Roderick, its chief technology officer.

The company will use the neighboring Al Larson Boat Shop shipyard as a staging area to launch Interorbital’s rockets, she added, and it will provide space and equipment so the company can lower the sizable launch unit and rocket onto the water.

From there, a boat will tow the launcher and rocket at least 100 miles off the coast, Milliron said, where the recoverable rocket will take off from a mobile spaceport unit.

The launch unit is still being tested, she said, but once complete, Interorbital will be able to launch rockets from any spot on the open sea that would enable the satellites to get to a customer’s targeted orbit around the planet. Once Interorbital’s Neptune rocket reaches a low-Earth orbit, it will eject the satellite.

Launching from land-based spaceports could cost several millions of dollars and take time, according to Milliron.

“What we’re striving to do is make the world’s least expensive launch system,” she said. “With this – we call it launch on demand – it’s a fast-track solution if someone needs to replace or add satellites.”

The rocket launch will be like any other rocket taking off, Milliron said, despite being in the ocean.

“It’s going to be a big pillar of fire,” she said.

Top Marks for Ports

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the top ports in North America for institutional real estate investors and national retailers, according to a new report by CBRE Group Inc.

The North America Ports and Logistics Annual Report, released May 6, rates America’s ports on infrastructure, closeness to the Asian market, density and size of surrounding economy, and depth of the industrial real estate market.

Recent labor strife and congestion issues at the West Coast ports caused importers and exporters to divert container cargo to East and Gulf coast ports, which saw greater growth in annual container cargo volume than did West Coast ports, said Kurt Strasmann, senior managing director for CBRE who oversaw the report findings.

Despite that, he expects the majority of cargo volume to return to the West Coast because most of the products imported here stay here. And, Strasmann added, the West Coast ports are still the most efficient, fastest and cheapest method to import goods.

Highlights that pushed the twin ports over other North American ports include a $4.5 billion project to upgrade terminal roads and bridges in phases over the next 10 years.

Strasmann said the report sought to answer questions from CBRE’s investor and retail clients. Investors wanted to know the areas with the lowest risk and greatest growth potential, while retailers with supply chain business models wanted to know which ports are best to handle distribution.

Staying Local

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority, or Metro, will buy 60 more cars for its light-rail mass-transit system from Kinkisharyo International, the El Segundo arm of Kinki Sharyo Co. Ltd. of Osaka.

Kinkisharyo had threatened to cease plans to build a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Palmdale to make the light-rail cars and take that business elsewhere after running into conflicts with labor and community groups. But in late November, the company and groups reached an agreement that Kinkisharyo would remain neutral on whether workers could unionize and that it would help community groups train potential workers in manufacturing.

Kinkisharyo is producing 78 light-rail cars for Metro in space it leases from Los Angeles World Airports in Palmdale. The additional 60 cars will also be made in Palmdale under two contract options worth $263 million.

Staff reporter Carol Lawrence can be reached at clawrence@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5224, ext. 237.

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