October 25, 2012
Credit: Credit: NASA
In an era of tightening federal budgets, the space industry is finding it can’t afford to wait for the government to come calling with new business. So industry leaders like Rex Geveden of Teledyne are pushing into new markets.
“In my opinion, the traditional markets have changed,” says Geveden, a multi-hatted executive who is president of Teledyne Brown Engineering and the company’s engineered systems division, and president and CEO of Teledyne Scientific & Imaging LLC.
“There was a time when engineering services was a good business for NASA and missile defense,” he says. “That’s a much more difficult competitive milieu these days. A lot of that work has gone away, and those resources have been diverted to other things like commercial launch. So it’s been kind of a thesis of ours, a strategic thesis of ours, to go and try to create some of our own future.”
Five years ago Brown Engineering, “an engineering business with a robust manufacturing capability” in Huntsville, Ala., drew three quarters of its business from missile defense and NASA work. Today, Geveden says, that has dropped to a third, and the company is moving beyond its traditional customers into non-space fields like submarine-carried submersibles for Seal teams.
One NASA-related business that fits into the company’s new paradigm is the planned Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (Muses) that the company is developing as a commercial platform to ride on the International Space Station (ISS).
Based on the flight releasable attachment mechanism (FRAM) platforms that Teledyne Brown builds for the space station exterior under a more conventional NASA contract, Muses will provide precision pointing and other accommodations for high-resolution digital cameras and other Earth sensors provided by customers from industry, academia and the government.
“We are developing that platform,” Geveden says. “It’s going swimmingly. ... I think we’ll close a deal pretty soon.”
Teledyne Brown Engineering plans to ship the completed Muses platform in the fall of 2014 for integration into the unpressurized “trunk” of a SpaceX Dragon on a resupply mission that probably will be launched in the first quarter of 2015, Geveden says. But like the Dragon, the Earth-observation platform will be a private commercial operation, supported by the paying customers who use it.