HPD specialises in high precision engineering solutions and has a rather diverse line of products, including complex cryostat devices for multiple purposes, weapon training systems for police forces and airborne or ground-based air sampling devices. The common thread across such an eclectic range of products is high precision engineering, cutting edge technology and high quality production control. HPD has contributed to some leading projects such as LIGO (https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/) . The company designed and built a seismic isolation platform ( http://www.hpd-online.com/HPD-HAM-LIGO-3Gen-project.php) that was critical to the design on LIGO.
I spoke to Kevin Miller, Director of Business Development at HPD who shared his views on commercial space. In his opinion, traditional space industry and non-space engineering industry are now at a sort of meeting point. Non-space companies are capable of delivering high precision design, high purity of materials and excellent production quality controls which are up to par with those of traditional space companies.
In addition to improved manufacturing processes and improved material characteristics, this trend is also driven by more reliable and readily available triple-E (Electric, Electronic and Electromagnetic) parts. Up until recently, triple-E parts suppliers had a stand-alone line for space triple-E components. Now, the reproducibility and reliability of triple-E components is such that, in many instances, space missions no longer require components specifically designed and made for space.
Small satellites are an area of potential development for commercial space. The miniaturisation of satellites and the increased levels of performance have reached such a level that CubeSats are no longer a tool for teaching and training engineers in engineering departments. It is perfectly possible to fit in those CubeSats cutting edge technologies and instruments.
Working for space projects can be a means for infusing new technologies and new capabilities in the company. They often pose tough technical problems and help the company sharpen its technological capability.
One of the keys to the future development of commercial space is the acquisition of space data at increasingly lower prices. Companies like HPD can help the space sector in that they are capable of delivering, within short deadlines, high precision, high performance pieces of engineering at relatively low cost. This can contribute to lowering the price of spacecraft and launcher manufacturing, facilitating access to space and ultimately reducing the cost of acquiring space data. Space data at a lower price is likely to generate more demand for spacecraft manufacturers, creating a virtuous circle that is good for companies like HPD.