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Sparks firm lands $117 million contract to build satellites
by Nathan Orme
May 15, 2008 | 1562 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy/SNC - Illustration of a TacSat-2 Satellite designed by MSI, a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks.
Courtesy/SNC - Illustration of a TacSat-2 Satellite designed by MSI, a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks.
Even if most people in Sparks don’t know about Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the company has gotten some major recognition from the high-tech industry.

On May 9, the Sparks-based company was awarded a $117 million contract from ORBCOMM Inc. to work with aerospace giants Boeing, ITT Space Systems and MicroSat Systems in building 18 new communications satellites.

This venture is SNC’s first into the aerospace arena, said Renee Velasco, director of mergers and acquisitions. Established in 1963, SNC has focused on automated navigation and landing systems for manned and unmanned aircraft mostly in the defense industry. In the last several years, Velasco said, SNC has been moving toward non-defense markets and about a year ago acquired MicroSat, out of Littleton, Colo., to help the company make the move to satellite technology.

“Really it was SNC’s ability to demonstrate a strong track record of on-time performance,” Velasco said of the company’s landing of such a large contract in its first foray into satellites.

Velasco said the satellites that SNC will be designing will take existing technology to make it “smaller, better and more secure.” The function of these particular satellites, she said, is to help companies track, monitor and control mobile and fixed assets. For example, the satellites help companies like UPS track the movements of its delivery trucks.

SNC employs 400 people at several locations in Sparks, including its corporate headquarters on Salomon Circle. Overall, SNC employs 1,200 people at 30 locations in 20 states. Velasco said the company has grown by about 30 percent each of the last five years. When she started with the company in 1993, Velasco said SNC had 100 employees.

Despite the growth rate, SNC remains relatively small compared to Boeing and other similar companies. Velasco said that fact works to the company’s advantage in landing contracts such as this one because there are fewer hoops to jump through to get things done.

“The decision makers are accessible,” she said, referring to owner Erin Ozmen and her husband, Fatih. “They’re here every day and they know what’s going on. If we want to get something done, we know where to go to get it done.”

The project is already underway and launch of the satellites is expected to take place in two phases: the first in 2010 and the second in 2012.
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