Nov 18, 2019
Elizabeth Howell – Forbes Contributor
When a company CEO calls his firm the ‘iPhone of satellites’, you know they’re aiming for a certain market.
Many of us today can’t live without apps on our phones. Satellites in space seem a little “out there” (both figuratively and literally) to the typical consumer. But Blue Canyon Technologies believes mini-satellites could be just as essential to our everyday lives, beyond the Internet and weather forecasts we already receive from big satellites.
George Stafford’s company now has 200 people that make everything that go into small satellites. They started by making customized navigation systems for the US Air Force. Now they manufacture all the pieces that go into these little space machines, from the electronics to the sensors, leading to strong vertical integration.
Quite a few people are paying attention. This month, Blue Canyon Technologies signed its 77th contract for 2019 alone. That’s built on a simple vision of trying to create something new for these small space machines. “We saw an opportunity in CubeSats to include some new technologies, things we wanted to develop, and help the industry as a whole,” Stafford said.
The company is known for building components for CubeSats that just did not exist — mini-stabilizing devices (reaction wheels) customized for these small satellite types, the aforementioned star trackers, and much more. Blue Canyon can build custom satellites from small to medium-sized, depending on customer needs — including everything from power systems to radio to attitude control.
The company’s control of its supply chain (which is almost unique in the industry) “means we are able to take efficiencies that no other spacecraft company can do,” Stafford said.
Their customers are varied, ranging from NASA to DARPA to most of the known “primes” in the aerospace industry — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Harris, the like. One of Blue Canyon’s recent contracts is examining navigation options for NASA, for example, since GPS does not work outside of Earth orbit. (The Department of defense is interested in this technology as well, Stafford noted.)
With revenues and employee numbers growing very quickly year-over-year, the company is now looking at growing its data services to expand its offerings. “I see that as being more ubiquitous as we progress over the next five years,” Stafford said.