Harris small satellite business jumps to $100 million in revenues

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LOGAN, Utah — Harris Corp.’s Mission Solutions is growing at a rapid clip. The business unit, which is the part of the company’s Space and Intelligence Systems that focuses on small satellites and hosted payloads, grew from around 50 employees in 2016 to 300 currently, and “we are actively pursuing another 100 people right now,” said Tim Lynch, general manager of Harris Mission Solutions of Melbourne, Florida.

During the same period, Harris small satellite revenues jumped from zero to $100 million, Bill Gattle, Harris Space and Intelligence president, told SpaceNews in a recent interview.

Lynch attributes the rapid growth to the firm’s ability to meet customer needs in creative ways.

“I’d put a sensor in a pine tree if it solves my customer’s problem,” Lynch said at the Small Satellite Conference here. Instead, most of the Harris sensors fly on dedicated satellites or as hosted payloads.

Years ago, Harris was known primarily for supplying space components to aerospace prime contractors. By supplying hosted payloads for Iridium Next communications satellites, Harris learned to miniaturizing spacecraft systems, lower costs and move fast, Gattle said.

That model is working well in the small satellite industry where Harris acts in many cases like a mid-tier prime contractor, Lynch said.

“We went from being a box provider to a mission solution provider,” Lynch said. That transition required Harris to augment its systems engineering staff, learn to purchase subsystems and craft specifications.

Harris commercial and government small satellite customers value speed and agility, Lynch said. “Now it’s about combining our state-of-the-art sensors with commercial-off-the-shelf avionics and ground station,” Lynch said.

Customers who previously spent hundreds of millions of dollars for space missions are eager to adopt “an 80 percent solution we can deliver 14 months from now for one-quarter of the cost,” Lynch said. As that type of program moves forward, Harris continues developing hardware and software to meet the customer’s goals, he added.