Smaller Satellite Company Gives Boeing A Run For Their Money
According to Wall Street Journal, Boeing is in the process of changing the way a satellite is constructed, with an eye toward automating a lot of the process. This will make it more simple to boost production while also developing overall efficiency. The efforts of the company reflect the basic transformation of the private space industry, driven by pressure put on incumbents by new entrants with a more nimble approach to getting the job done.
The rarefied atmosphere housed by private contractors has not been very crowded, and has proven a place for the companies that do exist to make a lot of money out of lucrative government contract that have large built-in margins. However, pressure from smaller players like SpaceX, which drastically undercuts Boeing on the cost of rocket launches, has meant the legacy operators need to rethink how they conduct business. Boeing’s satellite business lead Paul Rusnock told the Wall Street Journal that his company is now taking measures like putting 3D printing to use wherever possible, and sampling the designs of the satellites so they require fewer moving parts in order to minimize error rates and speed up production.
Satellites have been especially dependent on specialized, one-off parts that cost a lot to produce. Use of more standard, cross-purpose and modular satellite components is driving new efficiencies in production. The Wall Street Journal also states that there is a lot that can be done with simulated testing, and self-check protocols run by satellite themselves that replace previous expensive efforts to achieve the same results. With upstart providers offering cost of construction for new satellites that run at roughly 1/100th the price of what Boeing has commonly charged, and production cycles that can design new ones in a small fraction of the time, it is a likely necessity more than anything else that has pushed Boeing to rethink how it approaches the industry.