WASHINGTON — Satellite manufacturer Apex will open a new factory next year to ramp up production of small satellites.
The company announced Dec. 14 it signed a lease for a nearly 4,300-square-meter building in the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles that will be a production facility it calls Factory One. Development of the facility is supported by a $16 million Series A round the company raised in June.
The factory, projected to open in the third quarter of 2024, will be able to produce up to 50 satellites a year, said Chief Executive Ian Cinnamon in an interview. That will be a mix of the company’s initial satellite bus, Aries, and its larger Nova bus, based on customer demand.
He said that production rate could grow. “It’s such a flexible space that, as we continue to improve on our design and manufacturing principles, we think we could get, eventually, even more spacecraft out of that same facility.”
The company sees demand for those satellites coming from government and commercial customers. That includes, on the government side, efforts like the series of Space Development Agency tranches” of missile-warning and communications satellites. Cinnamon said that, in the private sector, Apex is seeing interest from “traditional space” companies for larger numbers of low Earth orbit satellites for communications and remote sensing.
“We tend to focus on customers that are ready and have the funding to not just buy a single satellite here or there but are really looking to move into the constellation environment,” he said. “They might start out by getting one or two satellites, but we know that they’re ready to go and buy many, many more.”
Apex is building its first Aries satellites in an existing facility in Los Angeles. Cinnamon said the company needed the larger Factory One both to increase the production rate and to accommodate the larger Nova satellites, an “ESPA Grande” class bus with a mass of more than 600 kilograms.
The company’s first satellite, called “Call to Adventure” and carrying payloads for multiple customers, is scheduled to launch on the SpaceX Transporter-10 rideshare mission in early 2024. Production of that satellite is “thumbs up and on track,” Cinnamon said.
When looking for a site for Factory One, Apex deliberately chose to stay in Los Angeles. “We really believe that L.A. is such an important center for aerospace innovation that we wanted to stay in that area,” he said, adding that the new factory will alter commutes for current employees by no more than 10 minutes.
Apex signed a 10-year lease for the facility, intending for it to serve as the headquarters for the company. “Over time, as we outgrow it, we’ll just open additional facilities,” he said, “but we really see us using this as our headquarters forever.”