Terran Orbital to build world’s largest spacecraft factory in Florida

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Nano and microsatellite developer Terran Orbital has announced a $300 million investment to build what it claims will be the “world’s largest” commercial spacecraft facility in Florida. 

Spanning 660,000 square feet, the facility will be constructed on Merritt Island and leverage 3D printing technologies to enable the production of thousands of different types of space vehicles per year.

The factory will be based on an artificial intelligence (AI)-controlled supply chain, and produce a wide array of complex electronic and mechanical devices for satellites. 

“I am excited to announce that Terran Orbital will be investing $300 million in the Space Coast to build the largest satellite manufacturing facility in the world,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Satellite manufacturing is and will continue to be an important part of the economy in the Space Coast, and with this announcement we are upping the ante.”

A render of what Terran Orbital's new Florida facility may look like. Image via Terran Orbital.
A render of what Terran Orbital’s new Florida facility may look like. Image via Terran Orbital.

Florida’s Space Coast

The home of NASA, Florida has consolidated its position as a global leader in aerospace research and investment to gain the nickname the “Space Coast”. NASA launches its rockets from Cape Canaveral on Merritt Island due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and to the equator, which means a rocket launching from the area uses 0.3 percent less energy thanks to the greater kinetic energy generated there as the Earth rotates on its axis. 

As such, the area is home to several 3D printing firms active in the space sector. Off-world manufacturing specialist Made In Space, which was acquired last year by aerospace conglomerate Redwire, bases its operations here, having previously worked with NASA to introduce 3D printing technology into new aerospace applications. 

Rocket propulsion startup Firehawk Aerospace is also based in Florida, and raised $2 million in seed funding last November to develop its advanced rocket propulsion systems driven by 3D printed solid fuel rods. 3D printing rocket manufacturer Relativity Space, meanwhile, is planning to launch its 3D printed Terran R launch vehicle from its Cape Canaveral site in 2024, the same site as the planned launch of its Terran 1 which has been pushed back to the beginning of next year. 

Additionally, Firefly Aerospace, a provider of launch vehicles and spacecraft, is planning to install an Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) system from Ingersoll Machine Tools at its new Florida Space Coast factory and launch site at Cape Canaveral, which is set to be completed by the beginning of 2022. The firm estimates the facility will be capable of producing 24 of its Alpha rockets each year, which are fabricated from all carbon fiber structures using AFP technology.

Currently headquartered in Irvine, California, Terran Orbital will become the latest firm utilizing 3D printing technology for space applications to join Florida’s Space Coast with the construction of its new facility.

“In Florida we are going to continue to take the lead on space by investing in infrastructure, training highly skilled workers and maintaining an economic climate that allows companies like Terran Orbital to thrive,” added DeSantis. “I congratulate them on a great decision to come to Florida.”

A satellite in lower earth orbit.
Featured image shows a satellite in lower earth orbit. Image via MIS.

Terran Orbital’s $300 million investment

Terran Orbital is planning the development of its new facility in partnership with Florida’s aerospace and spaceport development authority, Space Florida. Once built, the facility will reportedly be the world’s largest “Industry 4.0” space vehicle manufacturing facility, spanning 660,000 square feet.

Constructed at the Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) on Merritt Island, the facility will consist of ten automated hangers capable of producing thousands of space vehicles per year. 

Featuring an AI-controlled supply chain, the facility will be equipped with 3D printing technologies to enable the rapid delivery of space vehicles to the market. The factory’s additive manufacturing capabilities will be leveraged to produce high-quality and technologically advanced 3D printed circuit board assemblies that feature extensive electronic storage vaults.

Meanwhile, augmented and assisted workforce product lines will produce a wide range of complex electronic and mechanical devices for integration into an array of different satellites and spacecraft. 

“We are pleased to partner with Space Florida to build a factory that we view as a national asset: a commercially funded contribution to our nation’s space industrial base,” said Marc Bell, Co-founder and CEO of Terran Orbital. “Not only will we be able to expand our production capabilities to meet the growing demand for our products, but we will also bring valuable space vehicle manufacturing opportunities and capabilities to the State of Florida, investing over $300 million in new construction and equipment.

“By the end of 2025, we’re going to create approximately 2,100 new jobs with an average wage of $84,000.”

The state-of-the-art facility will aid Terran Orbital in providing end-to-end satellite offerings to customers within the military, civil, and commercial aerospace sectors. The company combines satellite design, production, launch planning, mission operations, and in-orbit support to clients, and is also developing what it says will be the most advanced Earth Observation Constellation, capable of providing vital capabilities in image responsiveness. 

Created to strengthen Florida’s leading position within aerospace research and exploration, Space Florida will support Terran Orbital in the building of the new facility.

“Space Florida congratulates Terran Orbital on its selection of Florida and our Launch and Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center for a new satellite manufacturing complex,” said Frank DiBello, Space Florida’s President. “This announcement is yet another milestone in Florida’s leadership in space commerce, offering state-of-the-art development, including launch-on-demand and satellite-on-demand capability at the spaceport.

“We look forward to Terran Orbital’s success in the years to come and the continued activity and growth in Florida.” 

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Featured image shows a render of what Terran Orbital’s new Florida facility may look like. Image via Terran Orbital.