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Xplore reveals its plans to open satellite manufacturing facility in Seattle area

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Xplore satellite manufacturing facility
Xplore’s new satellite manufacturing facility is in the Redmond complex that once housed Planetary Resources. (Xplore Photo)

Xplore, a Seattle-area startup that aims to build satellites for interplanetary missions, has a new address in Redmond, Wash. — in the same office complex that once housed the Planetary Resources asteroid-mining venture.

“Xplore’s 22,000-square-foot facility is tailor-made for satellite manufacturing,” Lisa Rich, the company’s founder and chief operating officer, said today in a news release. “It is large, expandable and can currently accommodate the research, development, production and operation of 20 spacecraft per year.”

And when Rich says the location is tailor-made for satellites, she’s not just speaking figuratively: Several years ago, Planetary Resources built a pair of pathfinder Earth-observation satellites on the premises, representing a significant step toward creating a fleet of asteroid-scouting spacecraft.

One of the Arkyd-6 satellites was launched on an orbital demonstration mission in 2018. Unfortunately, Planetary Resources ran out of money later that year, and its assets were purchased by ConsenSys, a blockchain venture.

Xplore is due to move into the facility in June to start building ESPA-class XCraft satellites suitable for rideshare missions, as well as LightCraft spacecraft for deep-space missions.

“We plan to build multiple Xcraft and LightCraft simultaneously,” Rich said. “Our clean rooms, electronic fabrication areas, meeting spaces, offices, mission operations center and enormous high bay will be put to immediate use.”

Xplore says it’s already working on projects for commercial customers as well as for NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Space Force and Air Force. Last year, for example, NOAA awarded Xplore $670,000 to study future options for a space-based solar weather observatory.

Eventually, the company intends to become a one-stop shop for “space as a service” satellite operations, extending to the moon, Mars, Venus, asteroids and other deep-space destinations.

Among Xplore’s advisers are Alan Stern, principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt; Lou Friedman, co-founder of the Planetary Society; Keith Masback, former president and CEO of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation; and Rob Meyerson, operating partner at C5 Capital and former president of Blue Origin.

““Xplore’s new facility further strengthens the Pacific Northwest as the national leader for satellite and spacecraft development,” Meyerson said in today’s news release. “I look forward to seeing the Xcraft and LightCraft in production.”

The company’s new facility is within sight of the building where SpaceX had its first satellite facility in Redmond, and not far from SpaceX’s current Starlink satellite manufacturing complex as well as the Redmond headquarters for Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite project. LeoStella’s satellite factory is in Tukwila, Wash., close to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

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