General Atomics' line of small satellites.

WASHINGTON — General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, based in San Diego, California, has opened a spacecraft development, integration and test factory in Centennial, Colorado, the company announced April 9.

A longtime defense contractor, General Atomics in recent years has expanded its space business after acquiring two small satellite manufacturers.

The new 33,514 square foot facility in Colorado triples the company’s capacity for satellite production, integration and testing, Scott Forney, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, said in a statement.

The company said it plans to produce ESPA-class satellites at the new facility. ESPA is short for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter.

General Atomics adapted the ESPA design to develop its Orbital Test Bed satellite bus.

The Space and Missile Systems Center in January 2019 selected a 110 kilogram Orbital Test Bed to carry a sensor from the French space agency CNES on behalf of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2021.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory will use the Orbital Test Bed to carry the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols instrument payload. The MAIA instrument, scheduled to launch in 2021, will help characterize the sizes, compositions and quantities of particulate matter in air pollution.

General Atomics in 2016 acquired Alabama-based smallsat manufacturer Miltec. In 2017 it bought the U.S. subsidiary of U.K.-based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, in Englewood, Colorado.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...