The spacecraft manufacturer York Space is expanding its facilities in Denver and plans to build satellites in 30 days
The company’s existing building on the left, with a representation of the planned expansion on the right.
York Space Systems
York Space, which builds spacecraft for customers who wish to operate satellites in orbit, announced Tuesday an expansion of its manufacturing facilities at the company’s headquarters in Denver, Colorado.
“This ‘mega-facility’ is really going to be a real high-speed production for the demand we are seeing now in both the commercial and government markets,” said Dirk Wallinger, CEO of York Space, to CNBC, adding that she “Adding a really robust manufacturing capacity” to secure our supply chain and expand the contracts we are working on with existing customers. “
The new facility in York will quadruple the total area of the company and expand its current headquarters by around 100,000 square meters. Wallinger said the company’s existing facility could already produce “up to 1,000 spacecraft a year,” but the expansion, which is slated to take 18 to 24 months, will “blow the water out of the water in terms of total production capacity.”
Wallinger noted that York’s capabilities have steadily improved since its inception in 2015, from four spacecraft at a time to now 20 at a time prior to expansion.
“We know how to make the products on a scale … right now we’re down to about three months [to build a spacecraft]”Said Wallinger.” The new facility will reduce them to 30 days. “
A more “traditional” growth path for companies
Unlike many of the space companies launched in the last decade, Wallinger said York was not backed by venture capital – with “some very strong traditional financiers” behind the company whose names the CEO did not reveal.
“We are more traditional,” said Wallinger. “We were very lucky to see and execute contracts and grow the company.”
York has won contracts for the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency, the US Army, and a number of private customers. Wallinger estimated that 65% to 35% of current spacecraft orders in York are split between state and commercial companies, the latter of which often require strict confidentiality agreements.
“We’re seeing a lot more of that at the Fortune 500,” Wallinger said. “They start looking at space, but they don’t talk about it.”
According to Wallinger, the spaceships are used for a variety of purposes, from mapping the earth to “cyber-secure communication”. According to the executive, “global corporations” have increased the demand for the latter service.
This is because companies understand that weak points in communication systems are “no longer acceptable”. As a result, more and more companies are turning to internal, space-based systems, he said.
The spacecraft’s smartphone
The S-CLASS platform was developed for missions for a wide variety of government and business customers.
York Space Systems
York’s core spaceship, the S-CLASS, is about the size of a household stove. The spacecraft’s compact design, as well as the reduction in size of the spacecraft over the past two decades – which has evolved from a school bus-sized spaceship to one as small as a mailbox – is analogous to what has happened to smartphones over the years.
“The phones were getting smaller,” said Wallinger.
But after years of spacecraft shrinking, customers are now pushing design in the other direction. York unveiled its LX-CLASS spacecraft platform last month, which reused 90% of the S-CLASS hardware and software while tripling performance and available payload volume.
“Now people are paying more for the extra-large iPhone, right, because they want more features. We see that basic trajectory that we saw with phones also with satellites,” said Wallinger.
IPO a “possibility”
The 16th electron launch in November 2020 when the company recovered the rocket for the first time after hosing it down for the first time.
York Space is “not quite” ready to go public, but Wallinger said going public was “a possibility”.
“This is not necessarily a mission in the sand and where we all want to go, but it is an opportunity for us,” said Wallinger. “We really focus on execution.”
In the wider space market, Wallinger found that more and more rocket builders like Rocket Lab or Astra are trying to “penetrate spacecraft”. York isn’t worried about competition, as Wallinger said, “Our customers don’t want to be tied to a rocket.” As “If you have a problem with one missile, you are incompatible” to launch another missile.
While “many” missiles are in development, Wallinger believes that the supply of US-built orbital-class missiles remains limited. This sector is currently led by SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Rocket Lab. Virgin Orbit recently joined the company following its first successful orbital launch.
“We hear a lot of demand [so] I think it is important that we continue to invest in launch vehicle infrastructure and capabilities. We don’t want to rely so much on foreign-owned companies to get government assets into space, “Wallinger said.” If York can make a lot of satellites but we can’t put them into orbit, it will be a challenge. “
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