Federal authorities shut down a major defense contractor plant Thursday morning in Chandler, telling workers to go home as agents scoured the facility.
Agents with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service were seen at the Orbital Sciences Corp. campus, but it was not known which federal agency served the search warrant.
The obscure agency is the investigative arm of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense that investigates terrorism, cybercrimes and technology transfers.
Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, said she could not release any details of the investigation.
The Chandler operations are focused on developing and building launch vehicles for the U.S. military, NASA and commercial customers.
An Orbital Sciences representative said employees at the corporate office in Dulles, Va., were also asked to leave Thursday morning.
Agents descended on the Chandler plant shortly after police were notified of
the raid about 7 a.m., said Chandler detective Livi Kacic.
Afterward, security guards patrolled the area, turning employees away and advising them not to speak with the media. Employees contacted by the Tribune declined to comment. Employees also were given a toll-free number to call that would inform them when they could return to work.
Orbital Sciences Corp. maintains the headquarters of its Launch Systems Group at 3380 S. Price Road, Chandler, where it employs more than 1,000 engineers, scientists and administrative personnel.
The group has grown rapidly, almost doubling its work force in the past three years as the company has won new government space contracts.
The Chandler group has especially been busy helping develop the national missile defense system, a high priority of the Bush administration to protect the nation from ballistic missile attacks.
Among the rockets produced by the division are the Taurus, Minotaur and Pegasus.
Mike Griffin, the chief administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, had held several key positions with Orbital Sciences during the 1990s.
After posting steep losses in 1999 and 2000, the company rebounded, posting a net income of $200 million in 2004. Recently, the U.S. Air Force awarded the company a $100 million contract to help develop two small launch vehicles.