Small satellite provider Terran Orbital, known for collaborating with NASA and commercial space companies on orbital and lunar spacecraft, will spend $300 million in Florida to construct a 660,000 square foot state-of-the-art commercial spacecraft facility that will create 2,100 jobs to produce thousands of different types of space vehicles per year.
Terran will be partnering with Florida’s aerospace and spaceport development authority, Space Florida, to build the facility. In fact, Space Florida assisted Terran in obtaining third-party capital for the construction. Once open in 2025, the site will feature a campus-based artificial intelligence (AI)-controlled supply chain enabling the Irvine, California-based company to continue industrializing satellite production, offering customers greater speed, lower costs, and higher quality satellites and Earth observation constellations for upcoming missions.
As part of the facility’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, it will also boast 3D printing technologies to accelerate the space vehicle delivery to market and capabilities to produce and fabricate the highest quality, technologically advanced, printed circuit board assembly with extensive electronic storage vaults. In addition, Terran will employ augmented and assisted workforce product lines to produce a vast array of complex electronic and mechanical devices.
An already busy low Earth orbit (LEO) is about to get more active as the growing demand for small, lower-cost satellites is increasing, driving companies like Terran to expand. Record-breaking satellite launches in 2020 were already an indication that the satellite market was on the rise. During the year, 1,283 satellites were launched. However, in 2021, almost 850 satellites traveled to orbit during the first four months of the year alone. Furthermore, by 2030, satellite launches could quintuple, or more, opening up space to more companies and startups than ever before.
Planning to supply enough satellites for the upcoming global demand, Terran Orbital is one of many businesses leveraging 3D printing technology to create spacecraft parts. Leading the trend are space giants like SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, Blue Origin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Relativity Space, and much more. In the last few years, startups worldwide have turned to additive manufacturing for space applications due to the countless advantages of the technology, including low costs, reduced lead times, and increased design flexibility.
On September 27, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello and Terran Orbital Co-Founder and CEO Marc Bell to announce the new major step in the rapid advancement of Florida’s space coast. This 72-mile Eastern coastline is home to the world’s top space and aerospace employers. DeSantis commented on the upcoming site, stating that it will have a hugely positive impact on the area, building off the previous success from other companies that have moved to the space coast in the last few years, including Sierra Space CAE and Redwire.
The Governor also highlighted that there is already a big pool of local talent for space companies to hire. Still, the state is placing a premium to prepare college students for careers in locational-based sectors like the space industry.
Constructed at Cape Canaveral’s Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) on Merritt Island, Florida, the site will consist of ten automated and augmented hangers capable of producing over 1,000 satellites and more than one million satellite components per year, according to Bell.
“To be fair, you probably never heard of us until today,” said Bell during his announcement speech. “We are currently listed on billions of dollars of U.S. Government programs are growing at an incredible rate. For us, Space Florida is the perfect place to tell the world who we are and why we will continue to dominate the small satellite marketplace. The commercial space industry continues to grow at an incredibly rapid rate which requires us to significantly expand our capabilities.”
Focused on developing the largest vertically integrated satellite assembly facility, Bell said that the 660,000 square foot area is part of Phase I and will bring all aspects of satellite creation, manufacturing, and production into one place. Most importantly, Terran will own its supply chain and continue adding other companies to its portfolio to enhance products in the next decade.
Aside from building satellites for customers in the civil, commercial, and government, Terran is aiming to develop its LEO satellite constellation. Terran’s first constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites is being developed by PredaSAR, a subsidiary of Terran that creates small satellites with on-board integrated SAR that continuously travel around the earth to provide continuous global coverage, 24/7, all-weather coverage of the world’s population, critical areas of commerce, and specific areas of interest, both terrestrial and maritime.
Based on space-proven hardware, state-of-the-art radar, and lights out software automation on a secure high-speed global infrastructure, SAR peers through conditions that other solutions can’t, such as clouds, smoke, and bad weather. It will launch on SpaceX in 2022. But PredaSAR is just one type of satellite that will be manufactured at the new site. Terran has many customers that will see their satellites coming out of the new facility in a few years, including Lockheed Martin, the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, Northrop Grumman, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and much more.
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