New rocket testing site unveiled in Southern Wisconsin

NORTH FREEDOM, Wis. (WMTV) -- Southern Wisconsin is becoming a hub for space technology, in part due to a new rocket testing site unveiled by the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) on Wednesday.

SNC invested $20 million to transform the former World War II Badger Army Ammunition Plant in North Freedom into a brand new rocket engine testing site.

"[We're] bringing rocket science to Wisconsin on a daily basis and making it a business in Wisconsin," said Tom Crabb, vice president of SNC's Propulsion and Environmental Systems Unit.

In 2014, SNC bought Madison-based aerospace company Orbitec and started upgrading the facilities.

"It was all asbetos, we had to do the whole cleanup, so it improved the environment, improved the land, improved everything," said Peter Zambrelli, SNC's senior business development manager.

On Wednesday, a small group got to see one of the rocket tests in action, testing SNC's Vortex rocket engines.

"I'm proud to champion the investments that will continue to spur innovation, boost manufacturing and promote good-paying jobs," said Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D), who watched the test.

Some of the Vortex engines at SNC's testing site will be used to power the Dream Chaser, SNC's "space plane." In 2021, the Dream Chaser will start carrying cargo for NASA to the International Space Station.

"Rocket science in Wisconsin is actually happening," Crabb told the group.

Rockets are not the only project SNC is working on. Their Madison office is working on other space-related projects that are already on the International Space Station, including a way to grow food in space.