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Local Expansion Moves Ahead for Terran Orbital

Terran Orbital Corp. Chief Executive Marc Bell says his growing company’s satellites can be used to halt high-stakes crime, in addition to the better-known defense and aerospace industry uses.

“A country came to us recently,” Bell said on May 10. “They pump oil. They’re having oil stolen off their pipeline and they want a solution from space to catch those people who are siphoning oil off their national pipeline.

“So, we are developing a solution to solve that problem from space,” Bell told Octane’s Tech Innovation Forum at the AV Irvine events venue in the Spectrum.

Terran Orbital (NYSE: LLAP), with major operations in Irvine, is riding the satellite boom; the industry projects tens of thousands of satellites to be launched in the coming years.
The company on May 17 broke ground on a nearly 95,000-square-foot satellite manufacturing facility in Irvine to help meet that demand.

The Business Journal in March was first to report on the planned new facility, located at 4 Goodyear, an industrial building near Bake Parkway and the Irvine-Lake Forest city line.

Jobs in Overdrive

The new facility, its fourth in Irvine, will bring more manufacturing capacity and high-tech jobs to the Irvine area as well as new manufacturing methods.

“We’re using a lot of robotics to build the modules that go into the satellites,” CEO Bell said.
Terran Orbital already employs approximately 450 people in Irvine across three buildings, a major increase from two years ago when the company employed fewer than 100 people here.

The company, officially based in Boca Raton, Fla., but with most of its operations here, had about 100 jobs posted on its website as of May 15, ranging from staff structural engineer, dynamics and test to computer vision engineer and culinary coordinator.

“Everything we build is made in the U.S.A. We’re required to certify that every chip was made in the U.S.A. There’s no better place to build in the U.SA. than Orange County,” Bell said at the Octane event.

Earnings Miss

The company on May 15 reported first-quarter earnings that missed analyst estimates, sending the share price down temporarily 9.4%. The company’s net loss narrowed to $54.4 million in the quarter ended March 31 compared to the same period a year ago, while revenue was $28.2 million.

The company sees revenue picking up this year, which should assuage some worries on Wall Street about the company’s falling cash reserves, which stood at $57.4 million at the end of last quarter.

“Given our current view of our steep ramp ahead, we anticipate in excess of $250 million in revenue in 2023,” the company said in its earnings release. That was a jump from 2022 revenue of $94.2 million.

As part of the earnings release, Terran Orbital said it had received an $87 million contract to manufacture 16 satellites for a new customer that was not identified by name.

The company in February announced a $2.4 billion contract to build 300 low-Earth-orbit satellites for Rivada Space Networks, with a customer option for 300 more.

Bell, who is also Terran Orbital’s chairman and co-founder, said the company now has a backlog in excess of $2.5 billion, signaling the strong pipeline of demand.

Customers include the U.S. Defense Department, foreign countries allied with the U.S., commercial entities, NASA and the European Space Agency, Bell said.

In October 2022, Terran Orbital received a new $100 million investment from major partner Lockheed Martin, in exchange for notes and warrants.

Fast Communications

Days before the May 17 facility groundbreaking, Terran said the Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3) satellite it developed enabled a successful super-speed 200 gigabits per second space-to-ground optical link.

Ultra-fast communications between outer space and the ground is a key component of further exploration.

Bell said his company already makes 85% of its parts and components in-house, and that’s expected to reach 100% later this year, with the exception of chips.

“We’re vertically integrated,” he says.

Bell, while speaking to the Octane audience, noted that the Federal Communications Commission has “applications for 60,000 satellites to into orbit right now” and that number is expected to grow.

He said that for launching the satellites “we use SpaceX every time.” SpaceX is the Hawthorne-based manufacturer, launcher, and satellite communications company set up by billionaire Tesla chief Elon Musk.

Terran’s satellites typically run in the 300-kilogram (660-pound) to 500-kilogram range, and they have been getting progressively larger to meet demand.

The company’s long-term plans call for production of around 1,000 satellites a year. It reported delivering 19 satellites last year. Terran Orbital had a market cap of about $230 million as of last week.

From Trekkie to Satellite Kingpin: Marc Bell’s Story

Terran Orbital Corp. Chief Executive Marc Bell says it proudly: “I’m a Trekkie,” one of the millions of devoted fans of the 1960s hit TV series “Star Trek” which later morphed into films, video games, novels and other entertainment.

“I was 10 years old, just a kid. That was the coolest thing out there. People flying around in space, buzzing around, going to other planets, meeting other people or other aliens. How cool is that! It fascinated me as a 10-year-old,” he told Octane’s 2023 Tech Innovation Forum on May 10.

In fact, in a nod to his beloved show, Terran Orbital’s stock ticker “LLAP” is taken from Star Trek’s Vulcan salute “Live Long and Prosper.”

Bell, with a long entrepreneurial career and two Tony Awards to his credit, is now building a stream of satellites for launching into outer space.

So, could he blast off into space himself one day?

No, is the clear answer from his cardiologist.

“If you ever see me go into space, you know it will be a one-way trip,” says the Terran CEO.

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