York opens manufacturing facility, hires engineering chief

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SAN FRANCISCO – York Space Systems announced the opening May 19 of its new manufacturing facility in Denver, a key step in the firm’s campaign to expand mass manufacturing of small satellites.

Since York was founded in 2015, company leaders have shared their goal of making satellites more like consumer electronics, which tend to become increasingly capable and inexpensive thanks to miniaturization and mass production.

“This year, we will improve the performance and the price is going to come down,” York Executive Chairman Chuck Beames told SpaceNews. “Our platform is becoming much more capable.”

York plans to satisfy a wide range of government and commercial missions with S-class satellites designed for five-year missions that sell for about $1 million.

To speed up manufacturing, York is moving into a facility three times the size of its current plant. In the new facility, York employees will be able to manufacture and test 20 spacecraft simultaneously, Beames said.

York plans to continue to make improvements to the new facility in 2020 to speed up manufacturing. By 2021, York will be able to deliver satellites to customers within two months of a contract award, Beames said.

“We have designed a manufacturing concept that is scalable to handle enormous parallel production when the customer requires it,” Beames said. “We can go from producing as few as 20 satellites a year, which is a very conservative estimate of our annual production needs, to 20 satellites a week.”

York’s new manufacturing facility also is designed for reliability. York is installing a 1.5 gigawatt generator to ensure manufacturing power is not disrupted. In addition, the new plant will rely on two internet service providers to ensure dependable communications.

“There will be no excuses,” Beames said. “When we sign a contract, we will deliver satellites on the date and for the price [specified].”

York also announced a new hire. Barry Behnken joined the firm as vice president of engineering. Behnken, whose 20-year Air Force career included work as a National Reconnaissance Office program director, also worked at Raytheon Technologies and co-founded AEye, a driverless car technologies startup.