George Stafford’s venture into manufacturing satellites
2020 CEO of the Year Finalist: Stafford's Blue Canyon builds spacecraft that can be manufactured in high volume for constellations
George Stafford, Co-founder and CEO
Blue Canyon Technologies, Boulder
Before the 2008 launch of Blue Canyon, Stafford and his co-founders thought the coming micro-satellite boom would be hampered by a lack of mass production. The company started making navigation and power systems, then began manufacturing entire satellites.
“We build spacecraft that can be manufactured in high volume for constellations,” says Stafford, 49. “We’ve carried that all the way through.”
As NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the space industry as a whole moves to smaller satellites, Blue Canyon has grown to nearly 300 employees as it opened an 80,000-square-foot satellite factory in Lafayette in June.
That dynamic growth trajectory might well continue, as the number of small satellite launches is projected to grow from about 100 this year to 600 in 2025, Stafford says. “There’s a lot more interest in interplanetary space these days,” he notes. “It’s not just NASA anymore.”
The new factory is up to the task, with a projected output of about 20 satellites a month in the next two to three years. “For the spacecraft industry, it’s a new bar,” Stafford says.
He credits co-founders Matt Beckner and Stephen Steg along with the entire Blue Canyon team for the company’s success. Working in the space business makes it easy to find passionate employees — “It’s almost an adventure,” Stafford says — and Colorado’s superlative industry footprint makes it even easier. “We’re pretty lucky to live where we live,” he says.
This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s annual CEO of the Year feature. Read more about this year’s winner Kurt Culbertson and the other finalists: