A Denver-based maker of small satellites plans to start producing slightly bigger craft and plans to construct a new plant to build them in.
York Space Systems said it will build a new plant that will allow it to produce about 80 satellites simultaneously, four times its current production rate. The new facility will be built next to its existing plant in downtown Denver.
“We’re hoping to break ground and get moving on it as soon as the great city of Denver will allow,” said Dirk Wallinger, York CEO.
The current plant is at full capacity, Wallinger said. It takes three to four months to build a satellite. The company’s objective when it designed the new building was to be able to produce a satellite in less than 30 days.
York is one of a growing number of companies concentrating on small satellites, which are less expensive and faster to launch into space than the much larger spacecraft that used to be more prevalent. Advances in technology have made it possible for smaller satellites to provide many of the capabilities of larger craft.
The federal government and private companies use smaller satellites to collect data for weather forecasts, national security, communications and navigation.
York, started in 2016, produces what it calls an S-Class craft, which is about the size of a hotel mini refrigerator. The company’s new LX-Class satellite will be two to three times bigger.
“We heard a lot of signals, both from our government customers and commercial customers, for a bit more capability when it came to agility and power,” Wallinger said. “As a result of that demand, York developed the LX-Class.”
The new platform will use about 90% of the flight-proven systems of its other craft, he added.
York has seen little slowdown during the pandemic. Wallinger declined to give specific numbers of employees or finances, but said the workforce has increased by roughly 200% over the past two quarters.
The company provides launch services and mission-control operations. Wallinger said Colorado is a good base for an aerospace company, noting that it has the country’s second-largest aerospace economy behind California.
A report by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. says Colorado’s overall private aerospace employment of 30,020 in 2019 was the highest per capita in the nation.
However, Wallinger said Colorado’s hot housing market has made it “a bit challenging” to recruit people.
The median price of a single-family home sold in Colorado rose above $500,000 for the first time ever in April, 1.5 times than the U.S. median, according to a monthly update from the Colorado Association of Realtors.
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