HawkEye 360 opens satellite manufacturing facility in Virginia
HERNDON, Va. — HawkEye 360 has opened a new manufacturing facility near its northern Virginia headquarters that will help the company accelerate the deployment of its constellation of radio-frequency (RF) monitoring satellites.
In a July 21 ceremony, the company formally dedicated its Advanced Technology and Development Center, a 1,765-square-meter building here that will consolidate production of its satellites. The facility will host up to 70 employees handling development and operations of its constellation, which has 15 satellites in orbit.
A major aspect of the facility is that it will allow the company to build the satellites in-house. While HawkEye 360 has always built the RF monitoring payloads, it has used satellite buses from the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies.
That approach is intended to improve the efficiency of producing the satellites, said John Serafini, chief executive of HawkEye 360, in an interview. “Being able to do it together allows us to scale faster and not have to ship the payload back and forth. That saves a meaningful amount of time and energy.”
HawkEye 360 plans to maintain its relationship with SFL. “What we’re moving towards is two manufacturing lines, running in parallel,” he said. “By doing so, we’ll be able to build these satellites faster. We can better control the timeline and better control the costs.”
The company’s goal is to have 20 clusters of three satellites each in orbit by the end of 2025. Serafini said the goal is to produce and launch at least four satellite clusters per year to both complete the constellation and to replace aging satellites. He said the first satellites built in Herndon will likely launch late this year on the first Rocket Lab Electron mission from Wallops Island, Virginia, part of a five-launch block buy HawkEye 360 announced in April.
The Rocket Lab missions will augment the SpaceX rideshare missions that HawkEye 360 has been using for recent satellite launches. “They are so cost-effective and so routine,” he said of the SpaceX missions. Dedicated Electron launches, he said, will be used to target specific orbits needed to fill out the constellation and provide desired revisit times.
The new facility and the expansion of its satellite constellation are backed by $200 million HawkEye 360 raised in two funding rounds last year. Serafini said the company does not expect to have to raise more money for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve got a very robust balance sheet,” he said. “We’ve got cash for multiple years and I think we can achieve profitability with the cash that we have. If we wanted to go out and raise more capital, I think we could, but we don’t need to.”
The ceremony to open the facility attracted a number of local officials as well as two members of Congress, Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Don Beyer (D-Va.), who thanked the company for expanding in the area. The company now has about 150 employees, with plans to grow to 200 by the end of the year.
Serafini said the company is looking at options to expand or consolidate the new facility with its existing headquarters a short distance away, also in Herndon. “The bottom line is that we’re going to be in Herndon for a long time,” he said. “It’s a great place to be for us: proximity to the customer, proximity to D.C. and an amazing talent base here.”