Lockheed Opens New Satellite Production Center (UPDATED)

By Graham Kilmer
Lockheed Martin opened in July the Radio Frequency Payload Center for Excellence, a new facility aimed at streamlining satellite spacecraft production.

The company has invested millions of dollars in staff with expertise spanning all areas of spacecraft production to be jointly located at the new Denver-based facility, said Sam Valenti, the center’s director.

Prior to opening the center, transporting pieces between the various stages of production consumed a lot of time, Valenti said. Consolidating every step of the process in one location has reduced the timeframe for producing a spacecraft by one-and-a-half months, he added.

Production is being aided by the company’s digital tapestry software, he said. The software records every step of the process from conceptualization to operation. Staff can access records of a product’s design, assembly and inspection using the technology, he said.

The program “weaves a digital thread through every step of the product life cycle,” he said.

The 50,000-square-foot manufacturing space allows staff at the center to work on production of several spacecraft projects simultaneously, Valenti said.

“The [center] already has a number of projects up and running,” he noted.

Personnel are currently working on a variety of narrowband and wideband communication as well as overhead persistent infrared payloads. They are also developing instruments with sensors for weather and navigation missions, Valenti said.

“Our new facility and network of experts position us to support these missions at high rates of production,” said Rick Ambrose, the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin space systems.

Currently, the center is working on spacecraft capable of being reconfigured while in orbit, Valenti said. The target, connectivity or capacity can be altered via a software upload. If a need arises for military coverage in an area, it could be redirected to support it, he added.

A major focus of investment for Lockheed Martin has been in flexible payloads designed to have both military and commercial applications, Valenti said. Very often these different sectors are faced with the same kinds of problems, he noted.

Clarification: The facility is based in Denver.

Topics: Manufacturing, Space

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