Two up-and-coming aerospace companies have set up shop in Long Beach, city leaders announced Friday during the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of Business event.
The news came as Chamber President and CEO Jeremy Harris hosted Mayor Rex Richardson for a “fire-side” chat to discuss the goings on in the Long Beach business community. During the conversation, Richardson announced the arrival of the two companies: AIBOT, an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) firm, and Auriga Space, which is developing an electric small-satellite launch vehicle.
“It’s a very exciting moment — the exploration of space and the privatization of that effort creates real opportunities for us here in Long Beach,” said Richardson, who has made aerospace one of the key industries he’s focused on expanding with his Grow Long Beach initiative. “We’re one of the fastest growing aerospace clusters in the United States.”
AIBOT, which was founded in Long Beach in 2022, is developing a pair of manned and unmanned eVTOL vehicles. The company recently was awarded a $15 million California Competes grant, which stipulates it must create 500 new full-time jobs and make a minimum investment of $10 million into facility construction or renovation.
The company boasts “long range” and “high speed” for its vehicles, which will be able to transport passengers from the Los Angeles region to San Diego in about 45 minutes, or to Las Vegas in an hour, according to President Max Ma.
“[We] are really about to disrupt the next generation of electric aviation,” Ma said. “We are trying to bring flying into every household. You drive a car today to commute, tomorrow you’re going to fly from the backyard of your home.”
“It’s really like Blade Runner in reality,” Ma joked. “It’s about time.”
The manned vehicle will have the capacity to carry up to seven people, Ma explained. The unmanned craft would be for commercial usage, including surveillance, transporting cargo, forest preservation such as fighting wildfires and medical uses, Ma said. The commercial operations are slated to begin next year, he added.
AIBOT has leased 25,000 square feet of hangar space at Long Beach Airport just off Spring Street for research and development, according to Anna Chu, director of financial planning and analysis and acting head of government affairs for the company. The firm also has two office spaces just off the airfield totaling 3,000 square feet.
Auriga, meanwhile, was founded by Winnie Lai in San Francisco last year following her departure from Spinlaunch in Long Beach, where she served as vice president of product and business development. She said she moved the company to a Long Beach co-working space in October because it’s a “more suitable location to build a business given what we’re building.”
“We wanted to be in close proximity to other businesses that can support us,” Lai said, noting the city’s bustling aerospace and manufacturing sectors.
The city’s talent pool, coming from nearby universities and colleges as well as other aerospace companies was another consideration for Lai when deciding to move to Long Beach.
The company’s launch system relies on a ground-based electromagnetic track that uses electricity to create a magnetic field. The magnetic field will propel the launch vehicle at a high speed and shoot it to a high altitude, replacing the first stage of conventional satellite launch vehicles. Once at altitude, the vehicle’s engines will ignite to reach orbit.
The system allows for the vehicles to be smaller, reducing costs, increasing launch cadence and making space more accessible, Lai said.
“It’s also important for us from an environmental perspective,” Lai said. “We talk about electrifying cars, we talk about electrifying aircraft, so it makes sense for us to consider electrifying spaceflight.”
The launch system is in the conceptual phase but the company announced in October an initial $5 million funding round as it moves toward the prototyping phase. The funding also will be used to expand its footprint in Long Beach, with the company working closely with staff to identify a permanent home.
“We wanted to come to a place where as we grow, there is supporting space,” she said. “And Long Beach has become a bit of a hub for funding aerospace and space hardware-driven companies.”