NASA "Junk" Sought After By Many
With the dawning of the 21st century came the dawning of a new
industry - commercial space flight. And with it, the requirement
for cast-off NASA "stuff."
Collectors and hobbyists may have gravitated towards Norton
Sales in North Hollywood, CA, for nearly 50 years, but these days
they are elbow to elbow with the industry's newest entrepreneurs,
reports the Los Angeles Times.
This new generation of rocketeers is much more interested in
small pieces of scrap and surplus, than, say, a much larger twin
module engine... a second stage motor for a Saturn V... or titanium
spheres that once stored highly explosive liquid oxygen rocket
And the pieces they are seeking can be purchased for a tenth of
what it would cost to buy new, to boot.
"This is like the holy grail for a rocket enthusiast without
much money," said Tim Pickens, president of the Huntsville, AL,
based rocket services company Orion Propulsion.
And it's not just little
known names that shop at the 12,000-square-foot warehouse; Norton
has supplied parts to most of the new space explorers, including
Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and Elon Musk's Space Exploration
Norton was founded by restaurateur Norton J. Holstrom, who began
buying scrap rocket parts in the early 1960s when Los Angeles was
home to many of the country's largest space and defense
contractors. At the time, NASA spending accounted for 7 percent of
the federal budget.
And although Norton's sells about $700,000 in merchandise a
year, making the company profitable, post 9/11 challenges prevent
it from selling overseas. And, said Guatemalan immigrant Carols
Guzman, who took over the company several years ago, "This stuff is
tough to get nowadays."
However, the future is looking bright for Guzman and Norton's
with a renewed interest in old space parts. This thanks to
President Bush's declaration that the US would return to the moon
by 2020 along with the growth of the commercial space industry.
For Norton's, there's no place to go but up.