Blue Canyon Technologies opens smallsat constellation factory

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WASHINGTON — Smallsat builder Blue Canyon Technologies is moving employees into a recently opened factory designed to build 100 satellites a year, and more in the future. 

The Crescent Satellite Constellation manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Colorado, near the city of Boulder, opened June 3, Matt Beckner, Blue Canyon chief operating officer, told SpaceNews

Because the factory opened during the coronavirus pandemic, employees are working staggered shifts and social distancing. Beckner said about 65-75 people are working at the same time, though the factory can support 275 workers at full operations. 

Beckner said the Crescent factory has two production lines each capable of completing one satellite a week, marking a shift from the company’s older site in Boulder.

“With this move, we transition from building a single satellite at a time in a clean room to building 10 or 20 at a time in a production line, also in a clean room, with a one satellite cadence per production line per week,” he said. 

Beckner declined to say how much Blue Canyon spent building the 80,000-square-foot facility. He said the company will continue installing equipment and adding people over the next few months, with the facility supporting its first spacecraft builds around September. 

Blue Canyon expects the factory to produce 50 satellites in 2021, Beckner said, and more in the years to follow. The factory can build satellites from cubesats up to 350-kilogram microsatellites, and will serve a mix of commercial, military and civil space customers, he said. 

Beckner said Blue Canyon seeks to differentiate itself by emphasizing vertical integration. 

“We produce greater than 90% of all of the components that go into our satellites,” he said. “That helps us keep our costs down, our technical performance at its best, and for us to evolve and pivot as the marketplace changes.”

Blue Canyon Technologies can build around 150 satellites a year using its original Boulder plant and its new Crescent factory, Beckner said. The company plans to install additional equipment at its Crescent factory to double its output, he said.