As President of Spectrum Astro of Gilbert, Arizona, Thompson has overseen dynamic growth in U.S. manufacturing of smaller satellites since his firm was founded in 1988. "We are sort of the Timex of the small satellite business," Thompson remarked. "We are competing against 'brand X'"- the big boys." While he declined to tell SpaceCast who "brand X" was, it was likely these included firms such as Lockheed Martin and Space Systems Loral.
But unlike the big firms in the small spacecraft industry, Thompson has led Spectrum Astro with a business model built primarily on U.S. government space business - civil space (NASA) and national security space (Air Force, NRO and BMDO). However, that mixture was likely to soon change, Thompson predicted. Spectrum Astro, like the competition, would also be pursuing commercial space business in the small satellite field. Leading to explosive financial growth, Thompson predicted.
"Spectrum Astro is headed towards the $100 million class soon," Thompson said. From an estimated $30 million in revenues in 1997, the company anticipated topping $58 million in 1998. By 1999, the amount should exceed $115 million, and by the year 2000 $200 million. "We can expect to reach $275 million by 2001", he claimed. Ground would soon be broken, Thompson predicted, on a 207,000 square foot office and lab complex in Gilbert. Furthermore, while NASA and the Air Force has been the foundation of their business, Spectrum would eventually see a business structure evenly divided at 25% each for Air Force, NASA, commercial space, and classified small satellite systems contracts. Thompson, a strong past critic of such military space launch programs as Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), has now changed course, due to the recent policy decision to move the EELV program into a commercial launch systems procurement. "I've become a convert," Thompson joked. Why? "Because EELV will be a positive force for the industry now."
Spectrum's next small satellite launch is the NASA Deep Space 1 project, currently undergoing testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The first of the NASA 'New Millennium" smallsats, Deep Space 1 is set for a July, 1998 launch. Other projects include the Air Force Mightysat satellites, the MSTI 1, 2, and 3 spacecraft for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), and development of new Xenon Ion rocket thrusters. Thompson addressed a luncheon speech Tuesday at the Washington Space Business Roundtable in Washington, DC, an industry business group.