WASHINGTON — General Atomics is better known for building Predator combat drones and mining uranium than building spacecraft, but that could change as the company develops an interest in building defense-focused cubesats.
Also in the realm of possibility: using expertise from building railguns to design a large, electromagnetic cannon as a means to orbit small satellites.
Nick Bucci, vice president of missile defense and space systems for General Atomic’s Electromagnetic Systems Group, said the company has built 11 cubesats for the U.S. Army over the past seven years, and is gradually becoming more and more invested in space.
Last February, General Atomics acquired Huntsville, Alabama-based Miltec, gaining a foothold in small satellite production, along with more expertise in hypersonic vehicles. General Atomics has been building 3U cubesats, but with Miltec in hand, wants to build 6U cubesats, and potentially scale up to 500-kilogram small satellites.
“Since we’ve acquired Miltech we’ve done a lot of investment in taking the lessons learned from how we build and design those satellites to improve our current generation of satellite design,” Bucci told SpaceNews Oct. 11 at the Association of the United States Army conference.
Defense customers are General Atomic’s primary focus for ...