The Secret Sauce to Satellite Manufacturing

Image: Millennium

Over the last five years, the demand for small satellite manufacturing has skyrocketed, fueled by their cost-effectiveness and versatility across a broad range of applications, including EO, defense, communications, and scientific research.

However, meeting the demand in a timely and reliable manner is a challenge for the industry.  

As a prime contractor operating within this burgeoning sector, Millennium Space Systems leverages decades of experience and a streamlined production system to help meet the ever-growing customer demand. The synergistic approach has enabled Millennium’s small satellite manufacturing to hit its stride, increasing its speed of production to a trajectory resembling Moore’s Millennium’s Law.   

Millennium’s law: 

  • 2011 Rapid Pathfinder: 24 months
  • 2019 Tetra-1: 13 months
  • 2023 Victus Nox: 8 months 

The System that Builds the Systems

Key to their success is establishing the system that builds the systems—the overall people, processes, and infrastructure that enables high-throughput production of advanced small satellites. Their secret sauce is a well-oiled small sat factory, a tried-and-tested bus architecture, and a hybrid approach that combines the dynamism of a new space company with the established resources and expertise that comes along with more than two decades of industry experience.

Small sat factory: Millennium’s dedicated small sat manufacturing capabilities are 80% vertically integrated and include multiple production lines capable of building satellites in various sizes and component integration needs. In addition to the bus, the facility produces in-house common core components—flight computers, star trackers, actuators, electrical systems, and more.

The company’s vertically integrated approach reduces costs and supply chain disruptions while ensuring scalability, streamlined production, and the ability to pivot at a moment’s notice.

Furthermore, the satellite production line has been shaped and refined by decades of on-orbit operations and design iterations, resulting in a stable, predictable, and flight-proven platform.

Building on heritage: Flight-proven experience and heritage are realized in Millennium’s small sat production lines. The company’s ability to reduce risk and move fast is enabled by this flight-proven ALTAIR spacecraft—a platform developed and invested in since 2015, along with its product manufacturability design, vertical integration of mature in-house components, and software reuse.

Knowledge from previous programs and mission operations feeds back into production, informing subsequent ventures. 

So far, 13 Millennium satellites have been successfully deployed in space, maintaining a 100% operational success rate. The on-orbit success is further bolstered by the company’s hybrid approach. 

The hybrid model: Millennium functions as a composite entity, leveraging the strengths of both the news apce and traditional aerospace industries. The result produces a manufacturing experience that is flexible, affordable, and reliable. 

  • New space commercial: Millennium rapidly space qualifies the latest relevant commercial tech, cutting-edge manufacturing practices, and flexible ALTAIR bus architecture to innovate and keep costs continuously low and delivery schedules very responsive. 
  • Traditional aerospace: Combining innovation with traditional aerospace engineering and reliability gives Millenium the best of both worlds. The company draws upon 20+ years of industry experience—including expertise in security and mission assurance—to provide high-performance and rapid delivery.

In Practice: Missile Warning and Tracking

Millennium is on contract for Missile Track Custody, a medium Earth orbit missile tracking small satellite constellation for the US Space Force Space Systems Command. As part of a layered architecture, these small sats will play a critical role in the nation’s missile warning and tracking infrastructure.

Given the critical nature of the application, the government relies on Millennium for punctuality and performance. 

Millennium’s extensive experience in satellite design, build, integration, and mission operations allows the company to adapt their process and maintain swift delivery. 

Going forward: Millennium’s Law continues its trajectory, shrinking delivery times while maintaining high reliability. The manufacturing efficiency, in turn, empowers customers to concentrate on their core competencies of delivering cutting-edge services to end users to stay ahead of the threats.