Lockheed Martin has been pouring a lot of money into new facilities lately, both their own and others’. In July, the company invested $1 million in the first additive manufacturing facility to open in Colorado, to be established on the campus of Metropolitan State University of Denver. Now Lockheed Martin has announced that they are beginning construction on a $350 million facility that will focus on producing advanced satellites. The new factory, to be called the Gateway Center, will be built on the company’s Waterton Canyon, Colorado campus near Denver and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The 266,000-square-foot facility will include a high bay clean room in which a range of satellites, from micro to macro, will be constructed. The clean room is capable of processing up to five modernized A2100 satellites, or multiple smaller satellites, at one time. That’s only one of the technologically advanced areas we can expect from the Gateway Center, however; it will also include a large thermal vacuum chamber that will simulate outer space’s harsh environment, an anechoic chamber where sensors and communications systems will be tested, and an advanced test operations and analysis center. The setup will allow satellites to be easily moved from the high bay to the thermal vacuum chamber and anechoic chamber in only an hour as opposed to the typical two days.
The Gateway Center will be certified to security standards required to support critical national security missions.
“This is our factory of the future: agile, efficient and packed with innovations. We’ll be able to build satellites that communicate with front-line troops, explore other planets, and support unique missions,” said Rick Ambrose, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “You could fit the Space Shuttle in the high bay with room to spare. That kind of size and versatility means we’ll be able to maximize economies of scale, and with all of our test chambers under one roof, we can streamline and speed production.”
The facility will be fully set up to be a “factory of the future,” as Ambrose described it, with a completely digital, paperless environment. Digital features include Bluetooth tools that can self-check, link and record data directly into the work instruction. Test processes will be automated, reducing procedure development time by 30 percent and test execution time by 15 percent. Employees will have access to automation processes on their mobile devices, and pick-and-place robots will deliver parts directly to technicians.
Satellites constructed at the facility will include those for national security, scientific and commercial purposes. 3D printing and virtual reality will be among the technologies used to create the satellites, which Lockheed Martin states will be more powerful and flexible at only a fraction of the cost and delivery time. The facility, says Lockheed, will be the most advanced the company has built so far, and once it’s complete, it will make their Waterton Canyon campus one of the largest satellite and space technology centers in the world, with 3.5 million square feet of production, engineering, test and office space.
The Waterton Canyon campus has been around since the 1950s and has more than 4,000 employees. Spacecraft currently in production there include the Air Force’s GPS III satellites, NASA’s InSight Mars lander, NOAA’s GOES-R Series weather satellites, and several commercial communications satellites.
Since 2014, Lockheed Martin has added more than 750 jobs to its Colorado-based workforce, and at the moment the company has about 350 job openings in the Denver area alone. The construction of the Gateway Center is expected to employ about 1,500 contractors. Companies that will work on the project include Hensel Phelps as the general contractor; Matrix PDM Engineering and Dynavac for the design and construction of the thermal vacuum chamber; and ETS-Lindgren for the design and construction of the anechoic chamber.
“Aerospace is an engine of innovation and growth for America, and we’re investing in infrastructure and technology to help strengthen the nation’s leadership in military and commercial space and scientific exploration,” said Ambrose. “We’re transforming every aspect of our operations to help our customers stay ahead of a rapidly-changing landscape. The Gateway Center, coupled with advancements in 3D printing, virtual reality design and smart payloads, will deliver game-changing innovations while saving our customers time and money.”
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