Reflecting on Decades of Trust
By Tom Campbell, General Manager, Space Antennas and Structures
When you think about the engineering required to design a structure that successfully unfurls in space and facilitates communication 22,000 miles above Earth, it’s awe-inspiring. Consider a reflector that is 5 meters in diameter when unfurled, yet stows to the size of a suitcase for launch. Then there’s the shock and vibration of launching on a rocket that reflectors must withstand, as well as surviving the hostile space environment, ranging from -200°C to +500°C.
L3Harris’ 100th unfurlable mesh reflector will support a global Earth science mission.
Designing and manufacturing space reflectors is unlike any other work in the world. As we celebrate our 100th unfurlable mesh reflector, listen to one of our customers talk about why they selected our team to support an upcoming Earth science mission.
Customers’ First Choice for Mission Solutions
Over the past 40 years, we have evolved our designs, processes and business to meet our customers’ changing demands for larger diameters, smaller stowed packages, lighter weights, more accurate surfaces and lower costs. The Folded Rib Reflector is one example. The reflector offers similar capability as our tried-and-true Radial Rib Reflector yet stows at half the size.
We also benefit from industry-leading research and development investments, paving the way for innovative designs like our High Compaction Ratio antenna solution and our recently introduced Perimeter Truss Reflector, which is a high accuracy, Ka-band structure with 50% lower mass than our heritage reflector designs.
Our team enjoys working closely with customers to solve in-depth engineering problems as much as they do to understand their mission at a higher level. Close collaboration enables our technical experts to find the right solution to support their mission.
Developing a Winning Team
We stay at the top of our game by making talent development a priority. We future-proof our business through mentoring. For example, we create integrated teams where 30- to 40-year tenured engineers work with new college graduates. They learn from one another in a way that supports the growth of the business.
We also encourage engineers to learn different aspects of the business. For example, I joined L3Harris with a degree in mechanical engineering. Rather than immediately start in a design role, I had the opportunity to work on the production floor, partnering with technicians to gain first-hand knowledge of the assembly process. The experience gave me a clearer picture of how all the pieces and parts come together as a unit.
Working inside the factory also taught me that every part of a reflector, no matter how small, makes a large impact on the success of a project. I learned the importance of meeting quality standards and customer commitments, both of which are essential for earning our customers’ trust and for maintaining our leadership position as the world’s most experienced unfurlable mesh reflector manufacturer.
Innovating for the Future
Our high-bay facility where these reflectors are made is one of the largest of its kind in the world. In addition to being a competitive differentiator to help us win new business, the facility is a central point of pride for our team. It represents our ability to make a positive impact on the world by producing innovative and affordable solutions no other company is offering. It also represents our ability to quickly respond to customer needs and stay ahead of market trends.
If there is one thing that bridges the generational differences of our team, it’s the desire to innovate. Innovation, along with our experience and history of success, are why our customers remain confident in L3Harris’ ability to provide mission success now and in the future.