Secretive aerospace firm to test rocket engines in Bremerton

The site has control rooms, a generator and a concrete pad with protective blast walls.

By Tad Sooter / Kitsap Sun

BREMERTON — A Renton-based aerospace firm will begin testing rocket engines next year in a facility under construction at the Port of Bremerton.

Radian Aerospace is involved in research and development of “aerospace hardware to serve a variety of customers,” according to a company representative. But beyond sharing some basic details, Radian officials are keeping a tight lid on the specifics of their project.

“We’re not in a position at this time to discuss the specific nature of the work we’re doing for reasons of confidentiality,” a Radian representative said in an email Wednesday.

Radian is building the engine testing facility on a small parcel of land adjacent to an abandoned runway at the southeast corner of Bremerton National Airport. According to plans filed with the city of Bremerton, the site consists of control and instrumentation rooms, a generator, and a concrete pad with protective blast walls.

A 15,500-pound mount will brace engines during testing. Liquid oxygen and jet fuel will be stored in stainless steel tanks shielded by walls. An automatic fire suppression system will be installed in case of emergencies.

The project has been reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration and city staff, among other agencies.

Incorporated in 2016, Radian Aerospace shares leadership with Holder Aerospace, a Renton company headed by former astronaut Livingston Holder and aerospace executive Curtis Gifford. Holder Aerospace clients have included civilian, Department of Defense and NASA contractors, according to the company’s website.

Holder and Gifford also collaborated at AirLaunch LLC, which worked to develop a system to launch rockets into orbit from cargo aircraft flying at high altitude.

Radian Aerospace is leasing a half-acre parcel from the Port of Bremerton for $325 a month. The agreement, signed in August, is good for one year, with the option for three one-year extensions.

Port of Bremerton CEO Jim Rothlin said the agency was excited to host Radian’s research.

“The port welcomes this industry as it helps diversify the skill sets at the industrial park, and we look forward to supporting their needs, whatever that might bring,” Rothlin said.

Engine tests in Bremerton will continue into 2019, according to permit documents.

Biplane company lands at port

A very different kind of aerospace company also touched down at the Port of Bremerton this fall.

Olde Thyme Aviation, which offers biplane tours of Puget Sound, inked a lease with the port in October and is relocating its headquarters to Bremerton National Airport. Olde Thyme operated out of Boeing Field in King County for the previous 23 years.

Owner Ken Horwitz said the company will begin tours out of Bremerton in early 2018 and will continue providing weekend tours at the Seattle Museum of Flight. Olde Thyme’s collection of biplanes includes a 1929 Travel Air, a variety of Waco aircraft and several World War II-vintage Stearman Kaydet Trainers.

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