SAS Flight Factory is manufacturing its way to space
SAS Flight Factory has taken on larger and larger projects from NASA, the Department of Defense and aerospace primes
SAS Flight Factory | Arvada | Product: Aerospace & Aircraft
The manufacturing arm of Boulder-based Special Aerospace Services, SAS Flight Factory has taken on larger and larger projects from NASA, the Department of Defense and aerospace primes.
It’s come a long way from the small Englewood machine shop acquired by Special Aerospace Services in March 2015. The operation moved to a 25,000-square-foot building in Arvada in 2017, vertically integrated it with engineering and rebranded it as SAS Flight Factory.
“We saw a need to move towards prototyping and actual production, which is a relative term in space,” says co-founder and CEO Heather Bulk. “We don’t do thousands and thousands of parts.”
After starting with small, simple parts, the scale of the projects at the Flight Factory has grown quickly. “Now we’re making propulsion parts and subsystems,” Bulk says. “Hardware is such a critical part of our client relationships, not only on engineering but on delivery of these very sophisticated, tough-to-build parts. It creates a really tight partnership.”
Bulk highlights a camera system for the U.S. space program and work on the Artemis lunar mission. “We’re involved in every human spaceflight program currently,” she says.
Now nearly 100 employees (with about 40 at the Flight Factory), the company has enjoyed double-digit growth in recent years, and Bulk forecasts that number could hit 20% in 2020.
She says the pivot to manufacturing was all about catering to big aerospace players in Colorado like United Launch Alliance and Sierra Nevada Corp. The biggest hurdle was simply getting it off the ground. “It’s the ‘how’ that’s really difficult in manufacturing,” Bulk says, calling Arvada’s business environment “exceptional” for the Flight Factory.
That dovetails into a new golden era for space-focused manufacturers. “Our industry right now has not been this popular since the 1960s,” Bulk says. “The opportunities and excitement in this industry are unprecedented over the past 40 years.”