Profile: David K. Shingledecker
VP of Strategic Systems, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems
R aytheon Co. ranks among the world’s top space manufacturers, a fact that is easy to forget since the company does most of its space-related work as a subcontractor, much of it on classified programs.
It is hard to find a large U.S. government satellite program where Raytheon is not involved in some way, either on the ground system or as a sensor, component or software supplier. The company has benefited handsomely from the surge in U.S. military space spending over the last several years, but indications are that things are leveling off.
David Shingledecker, whose division specializes in sensors and related services for satellites and missile defense applications, says there are still good opportunities, one of them being the military’s interest in low-cost satellites that can be launched on short notice to meet emerging tactical needs. Raytheon’s entree into that market could be the Artemis hyperspectral sensor the company is building for the Pentagon’s TacSat-3 satellite.
Raytheon also could be a major player on the Alternate Infrared Satellite System, which will replace the troubled Space Based Infrared System for missile warning. And Shingledecker still hasn’t given up on the Space Radar, despite the fact that Raytheon is not on either of the two teams competing for that contract and that its proposal to lead a test satellite development effort was soundly rejected last year by Congress.
Shingledecker also is wrestling with at least one major problem program, the Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite being built for the next generation of U.S. polar orbiting weather satellites.
Shingledecker spoke recently with Space News staff writer Jeremy Singer.
Does Raytheon’s work on the Artemis sensor demonstrate the company’s potential as a player in the responsive space arena?
Exactly. Generally, if you are capitalized to handle large, complex programs, your facilities and people are focused on large, complex systems. So when you think of how you do something more simple and elegant — are you adaptive enough? Can you do it? Can you apply all those facilities and people on Artemis and ever do it on time or cost?
If you do it the way you always have, the answer is no. So one of our challenges is to prove that we are flexible and adaptive in our thinking out of the box, and prove that we can deliver the Artemis payload from start to go in 15 months. We’re about six to eight months into it, and are on track.
How is your approach to Artemis different from that which you take on large operational space payloads ?
A lot of the people we have on it are very young — young engineers out of school. We did that intentionally, because they don’t necessarily know what can’t be done. If I took a bunch of 30-year people and put them on Artemis, they’d want to do it the way they have approached large payloads in the past. But with a lot of young people with a senior leader guiding them, making sure they are learning, it’s amazing what a young team can do.
What might be your next opportunity in the small satellite arena?
We’re working on a small synthetic aperture radar payload under contract for the Navy right now, and are planning to bid to build a payload for surveillance of objects in low Earth orbit for the Air Force Research Laboratory.
The laboratory put out a call for concepts to help with space surveillance earlier this year, and we responded to it with our proposal on March 20.
Do you see merit in the Air Force’s strategy of deploying new space capabilities incrementally?
It has its place. On some programs there are enough launches where an incremental approach makes sense. Responsive space is definitely one. There are other more high-end, demanding programs that don’t have that many launches associated with them, and they just have to meet the full requirement.
Can you give an example of such a program?
I think that with very unique intelligence satellites where there aren’t too many of them, or launches are too far between, incremental upgrades don’t make sense because you don’t have volume.
How might Raytheon participate in the Space Radar program?
We’ve turned our focus to the Integrated Space Radar Antenna Technology (Isat ) program, which is intended to demonstrate a 100-meter antenna that could be deployed in space to improve the power of future Space Radar satellites.
If that program is successful, it could lead to the operational use of antennas 300 meters (1,000 feet) long. We’re teamed with Boeing on that program, and the Pentagon is expected to choose a single contractor to build the flight experiment this summer.
It’s going to be pretty impressive to have a 1,000-foot platform orbiting the Earth. I like that approach personally because it gives you great radar capability, and as soon as you have a 1,000-foot platform in orbit, there are all sorts of capabilities you can add.
What are some examples of other applications for this type of antenna ?
Any sensor you can think of. I think the signals-intelligence people would be interested in a 1,000-foot aperture in space. Communications is another example. People planning for the future could dream up a lot if they had this size antenna.
What are you doing to address the problems with the Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite?
We have worked hand-in-glove with our customer to address in a very thorough and focused way the process, management and technical issues that came about on the Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite development program. We have assigned additional senior-level management to focus on addressing any issue that may arise.
We have teams to address process issues. We are drawing on talent across Raytheon to leverage lessons learned and resources elsewhere in the business. There are no technical show stoppers at this point. In fact, we have successfully completed two-thirds of our engineering development unit testing program and are preparing to enter into thermal vacuum.
What are you doing to retain qualified space professionals?
We spend a lot of time now working with people on career development — laying out career paths, looking at developmental needs, looking at the programs of the future coming down the pike. If we have a major program that we think we can win in three years, we’re asking ourselves the question: “Who do we have today that we would want to put on that program in the future?”
You can then start working with them to develop the additional talent and capabilities they would need to be successful in three years. When you have a young work force, and you are thinking about developing them and giving them the tools they need to do their job, it’s just a happier work force.
One of the areas that we struggle in, like everybody else, is attracting folks that have clearances, because it can take up to a year if you hire someone who hasn’t had clearances in the past and get them access. That remains to be an issue.
We do very well with recruiting from the universities in the Los Angeles area. The challenge for us and a lot of other people is after five years, when they pop their heads up and say “what do we want to do now?” How do you retain that talent and keep them? That’s an ongoing challenge that every big company has.
What do you do to keep them?
Aside from giving them technically challenging jobs, there is job rotation. “How would you like another assignment? Would you like to get into program management or line management?”
An employee might indicate that “well gee, I’d like to do that, but my wife’s family lives somewhere else, and I’ve got these issues.” We’ll work with them and find them a position in another part of Raytheon versus having them leave the company.
So we’re very much focused on keeping our family members inside the family, not having them go out.
Do you envision Raytheon ever becoming a prime contractor for satellites?
Different parts of the company have bid different things at different times, but here in El Segundo, we’re not looking to compete with the primes — the big three, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
We anticipate there will be opportunities in the future to look at experiments; proof-of-principle programs where the government might come to us and say “Raytheon will you prime this, and find a team with a bus provider and launch, and put together a team and launch it.” We would definitely consider those types of programs, but it’s not in our best interest to compete against our customers in their market.