By Emily Gabaldon
While roaring their engines onto Northrop Grumman’s Chandler, Arizona, campus in 2017, five employees found a common passion beyond building rockets: riding motorcycles.
The small group started taking rides on their lunch breaks together, which became a highlight of their week. Now the Rocket Riders, as they’re known around the Chandler site, are gaining traction on and off the road — a bond over motorcycles and rockets at the heart of their group.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
More than 40 members strong and growing, the Rocket Riders’ adventures go beyond lunch breaks to riding on their off-Fridays. (Some Northrop Grumman positions have a 9/80 work schedule, which allows employees who work a nine-hour day Monday through Thursday to take every other Friday off). Journeying through the sundrenched desert in the historic town of Tortilla Flats, Arizona, around the blooming cacti at Saguaro Lake or up and down the winding Superstition Mountains are just a few of the Rocket Riders’ past trips.
“It is the most freeing feeling ever,” said Mechanical Engineer Jason, who was inspired to save for a motorcycle and start riding because he met members of the group at work. “The feel of the wind on your face and seeing your friends and co-workers with you is amazing.”
The picturesque landscape of the Arizona desert is breathtaking and beautiful, but, for this group, it’s not just about a view or the thrill of the ride — it’s about sharing an experience.
“We all have a common enthusiasm for getting out there on the road and in the wind,” said Systems Engineer and one of the original five Rocket Riders, Gus. “It doesn’t matter what you do here; we all just like to get together to share a common interest.”
Riding as a pack also has its advantages when it comes to safety and visibility.
“Our large convoy of motorcycles definitely gets attention anywhere we go,” said Director of Engineering, Paul.
An Off-Road Pack
While motorcycles may have brought them together, there’s a lot more to what keeps the club thriving and growing.
“It’s a special type of camaraderie within the group; it’s a bonding experience riding together,” said Vali, design engineer and one of the original five Rocket Riders. “It’s about more than just the rides — we’ve become a family and as new people join, we become a bigger family.”
As the family grows, so does the chance to exchange ideas about work outside of the office.
“Getting to know folks that we wouldn’t ordinarily have any contact with is a great networking opportunity,” said Vauna, electrical engineer and one of the original five Rocket Riders. “Putting a face to a name and sharing an outside interest grows the relationship.”
A Bond That Goes Beyond
For some, just seeing other Rocket Riders around campus has created a stronger sense of community at work. The 45-acre Chandler campus can feel big, with employees working on a variety of programs and teams, but the motorcycle club has created a home for many of its members.
“It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger on campus,” said Jason. “It’s a great feeling to know that not only do we ride together, we also are all part of the NG family.”
Like a family, members feel like they can always pick up where they left off, joining rides as they are able.
“The group is very fluid,” said Electrical Engineer and Rocket Rider, William. “Sometimes I have to pass on rides when I’ve been supporting a launch campaign for more than 80 days overseas. But I know I can count on the group for another ride to come along.”
Ultimately, being able to count on each other is what it is all about.
“Out on the road, we are all equals, sharing a common passion,” said Rocket Rider and Director of Engineering Paul. “We feel like brothers and sisters when riding together.”
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