Lockheed Martin announced plans to invest $350 million in a new satellite production plant, which the company says could trim fat from a traditionally long and costly development process.
"You could fit the Space Shuttle in the high bay with room to spare,” said Rick Ambrose, vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in a statement. “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 new facility will include a thermal vacuum chamber, where the harsh space environment can be simulated for testing satellite systems. The new Gateway Center will also contain an anechoic chamber for testing sensors and communications payloads. The plant is scheduled to be finished in 2020.
The construction is not an unusual tactic for Lockheed Martin, particularly in the wake of crippling delays and cost overruns in its contract for the first ten satellites in the new GPS constellation. In 2015, the company said that it would streamline how it built radio frequency payloads so that shipping smaller parts around the country before the final assembly can be avoided.
The new facility could also be used to construct smaller satellites. That would dovetail with Lockheed Martin’s recent investment in Terran Orbital, a maker of small commercial satellites that provide internet connectivity or survey farmland. The company is emblematic of an industry shift toward small, inexpensive, and standardized satellites.
The facility will be constructed on Lockheed Martin’s campus in Waterton Canyon, Colo., where it makes satellites for connecting soldiers on remote battlefields to placing smartphones on a world map. There, it also works on GPS III satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-R weather satellites.
"This is our factory of the future,” Ambrose said in a statement.