General Dynamics to expand satellite operations offerings through new SpacePlex facility at New Mexico State University

Feb. 18, 2000 by No Byline NMSU News Center

General Dynamics Worldwide Telecommunication Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, will provide enhanced satellite operations and teleport services through a new facility being developed at the Arrowhead Research Park of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

The facility, called the General Dynamics “SpacePlex,” will enable General Dynamics Worldwide Telecommunications Systems to provide satellite command and control services, network operations and ground-station support for to up to 100 satellites.

The SpacePlex is an outgrowth of a collaborative effort between NMSU and General Dynamics. NMSU is a recognized Center for Space Telemetering and Telecommunications funded by NASA Goddard SpaceFlight Center, U.S. Air Force Research Labs, and the National Science Foundation, and General Dynamics has operated a teleport and satellite operations center there since 1997.

General Dynamics Worldwide Telecommunications Systems presently supports dozens of satellites for NASA and the Department of Defense at locations in New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, Maine, Guam and California, and serves commercial customers through the operations center in Las Cruces. With more than 200 satellite professionals in the New Mexico area supporting customers, General Dynamics is positioned to be the largest fee-for-service satellite operations support provider in the country. The new facility will enable the company to support additional spacecraft as demand for its services grows.

“We currently offer the most extensive end-to-end fee-for-service satellite operations in the industry, and the SpacePlex will enable us to significantly expand the number of customers we can support in those areas,” said Ken Osborne, General Dynamics’ director for Civil & Commercial Space Services.

“Between the government’s trend toward outsourcing and the growth of commercial telecommunications service-offerings by companies that rely on external partners for critical network components, the demand for fee-for-service operations is about to explode,” Osborne said. “The General Dynamics SpacePlex will help us be ready to meet that demand for low-cost network management, uplink/downlink and satellite operations services.”

The SpacePlex will be an 11,000-square-foot facility with 28 control stations dedicated to supporting satellite operations. Operating 24 hours a day year round, General Dynamics engineers, supported by NMSU students, will provide critical satellite command and control services from the new facility.

General Dynamics also offers complete teleport uplink/downlink services for relaying any type of data from most geographic locations in the world through its New Mexico facilities, and a high-bandwidth Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) link to terrestrial networks will be implemented at the SpacePlex facility in the near future.

Development of the SpacePlex is a direct result of the rapid growth seen in the commercial space market. The SpacePlex will house the Greater Southwest Teleport, control centers, office space and a conference capability.

“Our relationship with the university has been an unqualified success,” Osborne said. “It has allowed us to expand into the commercial space services market, and the students who are employed in operations center receive hands-on experience in commercial space systems, one of the fastest growing markets in industry. This is a great foundation for training and retaining the highly skilled home-grown’ talent that we need to help ensure our growth.”

In addition to creating employment opportunities for NMSU students, General Dynamics also sponsors a satellite operations and engineering course at NMSU.

General Dynamics also has alliances with Universal Space Network and Raytheon Company that enhance the company’s ability to offer its customers a broad spectrum of capabilities.

The SpacePlex will use Raytheon’s ECLIPSE tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) system for satellite operations. A back-up control center capability is provided from a facility in Colorado to ensure fail-safe delivery of all operations.

Through Universal Space Network’s worldwide network of earth stations, General Dynamics is also able to provide satellite support operations and launch support for low-Earth orbit (LEO) and medium-Earth orbit (MEO) constellations, and for geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites.

The SpacePlex facility was designed by Nims, Calvani and Associates and will be constructed by Northrise Corp. of Las Cruces under a leaseback agreement with General Dynamics. Project completion is scheduled for late summer 2000, at which time General Dynamics WTS will lease space at the SpacePlex facility to perform its satellite support services.

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