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Terran Orbital Lands Record $2.4B Contract

Small-satellite maker Terran Orbital Corp., which has a major presence in Irvine, has brought home its biggest contract ever, a $2.4 billion order from Rivada Space Networks for 300 Low Earth Orbit, or LEO, spacecraft.

“I believe this is the largest small-satellite deal in the history of small satellites—I don’t know any deal that is larger,” Terran Chief Executive Marc Bell told the Business Journal on Feb. 24.

The contract strengthens Orange County’s key role as a satellite-making hub. Terran Orbital, whose work is focused on the aerospace and defense industries, predicts that “50,000 satellites will be launched in the next 10 years” and it wants a big chunk of that business.

The deal with Munich-based Rivada Space, which is aiming to build a constellation of satellites to create a next-gen data “network in the sky,” is a step in that direction.

Rivada Space is a subsidiary of Rivada Networks, a Washington, D.C.-based wireless technology company focused on open-access wholesale and the convergence of terrestrial and satellite communications.

2025 Deployment

Terran’s (NYSE: LLAP) Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems division in Irvine will design, build, and deploy the satellites for Rivada, the company said late last month. Deployment is expected to start in 2025.

CEO Bell said the satellites will be built in Irvine, where the staff is expected to increase by an as-yet-unspecified number.

Terran’s shares surged 90% to $3.24 apiece for a market cap of $458 million after the contract was announced on Feb. 22 and settled back to $2.93 each at the close. As of early last week, shares were up more than 70% so far this year, though still well below the $10 price Terran went public at a year ago via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company, commonly known as a SPAC.

Network in the Sky

The satellites built by Terran will weigh about 1,100 pounds each (see story, this page).
Rivada’s space-based data network is designed to provide fiber-like low latency and gigabit per second data delivery which is ultra-secure and extremely resilient.

No other system—in orbit or planned—can do this, the company says, calling its plans a “network in the sky.”

Rivada says global coverage by its constellation is expected by 2026, with full deployment by mid-2028.

Rivada’s Chief Strategy Officer Diederik Kelder told CNBC that the difference between his company’s planned network and those like SpaceX’s Starlink is that the latter are “specifically designed for broadband.”

“We have designed our system from the get-go to cater to enterprise and government customers,” Kelder said. “You can use the system for other purposes, but it gives us a very specific edge in those markets.”

The constellation calls for 288 satellites, with another 12 built as backups.

OC Boost

Terran Orbital employed 312 people in Orange County as of August, according to Business Journal data. That’s up 121% from a year ago, making it one of the fastest-growing tech firms in the area.

Terran Orbital has added 200,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space to its Irvine facilities the past few years and counted over 450 employees as of December, companywide.

Terran Orbital, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., had about 70 open positions advertised on its website as of March 1.

An even bigger local job push is foreseen over the next few years, as the company late last year switched up production plans, swapping out a proposed $300 million plant in Florida for more work in Irvine. The growth will continue with the Rivada contract.

That rapid growth in local tech jobs is one reason Bell in January was named a Business Journal Businessperson of the Year, for the technology sector.

The company posted record-high third-quarter revenue of $27.8 million, up 171% compared to $10.3 million in the same period in the prior year. It will release fourth-quarter and full-year results on March 21.

Small Satellites Can Still Be Quite Large

Terran Orbital Corp. specializes in what are called “small satellites,” though they can still be pretty hefty spacecraft.

The company’s $2.4 billion contract with Rivada Space Networks calls for it to build units weighing about 500 kilograms, or 1,100 pounds, each.

Most of the Terran satellites are in the 300-kilogram (660-pound) to 500-kilogram range, with “some larger, some smaller,” Terran CEO Marc Bell said at the end of last year.
“People want more power,” Bell added in an interview with the Business Journal on Feb. 24.

“To get more power you need more size.”

Toward the other end of the size spectrum, Terran developed LunIR, a moon-mapping satellite about the size of a microwave oven that weighed in at a petit 11 kilograms (24-pounds) and was launched in November.

—Kevin Costelloe

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