Nation’s Heaviest Concrete Tilt Panels Erected at Northrop Grumman’s Satellite Manufacturing Facility

Willmeng Construction Inc., a Phoenix-based commercial general contractor, hosted a tilting ceremony on Nov. 2, celebrating the successful lift of the heaviest concrete tilt panel in the nation and the eighth tallest in North and South America, weighing in at more than 500,000 lbs. at the Northrop Grumman satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Ariz.

“The logistics, scheduling, pre-planning and execution of this project for Northrop Grumman is one of complexity and requires an entire team effort to deliver concrete panels like very few have seen before,” said James Murphy, Willmeng CEO. “The collaboration among Suntec, Gensler and the client will result in a state-of-the-art facility equipped to meet Northrop Grumman’s needs in Gilbert.”

Marking a major milestone in the construction at the facility, the first, and heaviest concrete panel lifted weighs approximately 504,000 lbs., and stands at 87 ft. 7 in. tall, officially breaking the previous record of 369,600 lbs. also set in Phoenix two years ago. Designed by Gensler, Phoenix, this expansion will maximize space to allow for nearly double the production capacity of the existing facility.

(Right to Left) Mike Mongelli, Willmeng President; James Murphy, Willmeng CEO; and Brian Johnson, Willmeng Project Executive watch as the first panel lifted makes history.

“This project milestone is a huge accomplishment for the entire project team and our many trade partners,” said Mike Mongelli, Willmeng President. “We look forward to seeing the impact this facility makes on Arizona at large.”

During the gathering on Nov. 2, the uniquely specialized 850-ton crane, which was exported from California and assembled on-site days prior, erected and set the first two panels. Due to the massive size of these panels, Suntec Concrete poured the slabs weeks prior to account for the lengthy curing process. Each panel measures 20 ft. 1 in. wide and 2 ft. thick, breaking records for size and requiring unique reinforcing considerations to execute this milestone.

“Safety is our number one priority on this project,” shared Israel Sanchez, Suntec Project Manager. “We kicked the morning off with an extensive safety meeting after weeks of preparation to make sure that everything occurred without any issues.”

“Our entire team is grateful to be part of such a momentous project in Arizona and the nation,” remarked Derek Wright, Suntec President. “Our intent is always to deliver for our clients on whatever the project demands. We appreciate the hard work by our team and trust given from our clients to be part of such a complex and exceptional project.  It’s humbling to be constructing and erecting these exceptionally large and heavy tilt panels in 2020.” 

The project expansion includes a 100,000 SF addition to its existing satellite manufacturing facility, and will feature large bays to house overhead cranes with a clear height of 55 ft. and transition bays as tall as 65 ft. In preparation for this day, Willmeng Construction and Suntec Concrete partnered to increase the number of safety practice-runs and doubled the number of field workers to ensure each panel was placed safely and with the highest level of quality.

The expansion of this facility will provide reliable and affordable satellites for various Northrop Grumman customers including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey and others. These satellites are used for a variety of high-profile satellite missions, including critical science missions and other programs to support our national security.

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