How We Ensure Mission Success Through our Supply Chain

Oct 30, 2019

Guesswork has no place in our ability to meet schedule, cost and mission success. That’s why the strength of our supply chain is a top priority. Every component in the space antenna systems we design has a critical role. Our ability to deliver solutions our customers can count on depends on a highly-efficient process by which we select vendors, maintain relationships, ensure quality and create supply chain resiliency. Our commitment to maintaining a quality supply chain is one of the reasons why we’ve been able to celebrate the production of our 100th unfurlable mesh reflector this year. And, it’s especially important as we introduce next-generation designs like our Perimeter Truss Reflector and our High Compaction Ratio (HCR) antenna solution that meet the changing needs of our customers.

Our engineering teams collaborated extensively with critical suppliers in the design phase to bring these innovative solutions to market. Our Perimeter Truss Reflector meets the increased demand for more accurate, more compact and lighter reflectors. The reflector scales from 3 meters to 22 meters and has 50 percent lower mass than our heritage reflector designs. Our HCR solution is offered in 1-meter to 5-meter apertures that meet smallsat form factors and achieve high communication gain typically available only from systems on larger satellites. Engineers partnered with suppliers to ensure that material and sizing specifications of these solutions would meet quality and performance standards and be sourced in time to accommodate schedule demands.

Space Antennas

The way we work with our suppliers on new and existing solutions helps ensure the kind of reliability of performance that we’re known for in the industry.

Build Strong Supplier Relationships

A healthy supply chain starts with strong supplier relationships. Building space antenna solutions is very challenging, which is why there are only a few companies in the world that can do it and do it well. Our solutions must be resilient enough to endure rocket vibrations and extreme temperature swings, and yet be lightweight and compact enough to stow inside small spaces.

We build strong relationships through regular face-to-face meetings with our supplier partners. This gives us the opportunity to explain the purpose of the mission and help them understand customer requirements from a business and technical point of view.

We invest in their teams through mentorship and by developing lasting processes and tools that enable them to fulfill jobs for today and in the future.

Ensure Quality Through Rigorous Testing

Quality is a critical part of the supplier relationship. We have highly mechanical, customized solutions made from space-grade materials that require verification at every level.

Even before manufacturing begins, we engage with our suppliers to understand how they test and verify their products. We conduct risk assessments to mitigate potential problems before they arise, and we look for opportunities to build standard practices and repeatable steps that result in quality performance every single time.

Once manufacturing begins, we conduct regular business and technical reviews to ensure suppliers continue to meet system needs, quality standards and schedule for every project they support. When we receive materials from suppliers, our internal quality organization completes a thorough independent verification to ensure requirements are met before sending parts to the integration facility.

Commit to Supply Chain Resiliency

The space industry has a limited marketplace. Companies use the same suppliers repeatedly, which is why it’s imperative to create resiliency within the supply chain. We collaborate with suppliers to build robust programs focused on continuous improvement so they can harden their processes and expand capacity while maintaining quality standards.

With these well-vetted principles in place, we build stronger suppliers that enable us to respond quickly to customer needs while meeting their requirements now and for many decades to come.