North American Aviation

Founded by Clement Melville Keys on December 6, 1928, North American Aviation (NAA) was a leading aerospace manufacturer. It became defunct after its merger with Rockwell-Standard to form North American Rockwell—later known as Rockwell International—in 1967. Boeing acquired the NAA division from Rockwell in 1996.

NAA participated in aeronautical operations prior to the creation of NASA, building rocket engines for the military through its Rocketdyne division. The company subsequently worked alongside the manned spaceflight program, constructing the X-15 research airplane in 1959 to test reentry conditions and weightlessness; furnishing engines for the Delta rocket, first launched in 1960; and building booster rockets used to test the launch escape system for Project Mercury. In 1961, NAA became directly involved with the Apollo program, producing the second stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle—also known as S-II—and the Command and Service Module, used to ferry astronauts to lunar orbit and return them to Earth. On January 27, 1967, a cabin fire occurred in a Command Module during a launch test of the first manned Apollo mission, Apollo 1, killing the three astronauts inside. As the prime contractor of the craft, NAA was partly blamed for the fatal tragedy. The company merged with Rockwell-Standard shortly thereafter.

NAA continued its involvement with the space industry as a part of North American Rockwell, assisting in the construction of the Space Shuttle Orbiter. Now owned by Boeing, what remains of NAA falls within the company’s Defense, Space, and Security division, which manufactures defense and aerospace products and services.

McDonnell Douglas
North American Rockwell