BELTSVILLE, Md. — ATK [ATK] is launching an effort to secure more small satellite prime contractor roles as the Defense Department starts to emphasize smaller, more affordable satellites, according to a company official.
ATK Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Space Systems Division Jim Armor said recently the company’s long history producing satellite components and parts, as well as providing systems engineering and discipline engineering like mechanical, thermal, guidance navigation and control software puts ATK in a great position to gain more lucrative prime contractor deals.
“We really feel like we know the business,” Armor said at ATK’s space systems headquarters here. “I think as Air Force Space and Missile Command (AFSMC) is also looking at smaller Global Positioning System (GPS), smaller missile warning satellites, the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), we intend to compete robustly for those opportunities.”
ATK announced in July an expanded product line of smaller satellites: A100, A200, A500 and A700 with elevated platforms of A150, A250 and A550 providing more payload weight capability and available power. A100 is the smallest, capable of lasting one to five years while carrying a payload weighing up to 15 kg. A700 is the most heavy duty, capable of lasting five to 15 years while carrying a payload weighing up to 1,700 kg.
ATK is also teaming with U.S. Space LLC to offer both satellite operators and governments its ViviSat Missile Extension Vehicle (MEV), an 1,800 kg, A700-class small satellite that connects to existing satellites like a “jetpack” and can perform functions like refueling. Armor said the MEV is as large as ATK can get, with its line of satellite buses going down to as small as 50 kg. Armor said ATK can’t develop larger satellites because they are too big for the company’s facilities and are extremely complicated.
In addition to budgetary constraints driving demand for smaller satellites, Armor said in August technology has increased “by leaps and bounds” over the years to the point where companies can put more capability in smaller packages more affordably.
Armor also said while ATK wasn’t the prime contractor for the TACSAT-3 or Operationally Responsive Space-1 (ORS-1) military reconnaissance spacecraft it was technically the systems integrator for those. Armor said ATK built the ORS-1 bus, from start to delivery, in 17 months. TACSAT-3 and ORS-1 are A200 class satellites.
“The community pretty much knows our capabilities there,” Armor said.
ATK is also responsible for satellite buses on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite (A200 class), the Time History of Events and Macroscale Substorms (THEMIS) weather satellite (A100 class) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Phoenix satellite harvesting satellite bus (A500 class).