The promise of proliferated constellations



Feature Article

During his keynote speech at the 38th Space Symposium, Gen Chance Saltzman, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, heralded a new space era in which the U.S. faces “an incredibly sophisticated array of threats.” In support of that, the Department of Defense is building a resilient space architecture powered by proliferated small satellite constellations.

“These constellations must be made up of the right kind of small satellites, with the capability required to face the advanced threats,” said Jason Kim, chief executive officer, Millennium Space Systems. “Where we’re headed is a layered approach where satellites work together across orbits and missions.”

To deliver on the promise of proliferated constellations, small satellite companies must have critical enablers in place, including mission knowledge and the ability to manufacture high-performance small satellites at speed and scale to provide effective mission assurance.

Every company has a different approach to achieve these enablers. With Millennium Space Systems, the company built their mission knowledge and mission assurance processes by delivering high-performance small satellites since its founding, shortly after 9/11. The company is also 80% vertically integrated, allowing for better control of schedule, cost and risk – all key factors for the rapid delivery of small satellite constellations.

“At Millennium, we operate like a hybrid business, merging the best of commercial and traditional aerospace industries,” said Kim. “This means we can blend traditional aerospace knowledge and expertise with the processes and advanced technologies of the commercial sector. This approach results in small sat constellations that have the right capabilities to meet the latest threats, delivered faster and more affordably.”

What also supports rapid delivery is flexibility. Millennium Space Systems deliberately designed its buses and common core components to be flexible across orbits and missions.  

“The advantage of producing components in-house cannot be overstated,” said Nirav Shah, director of Mission and Systems Engineering. “Having a set of common components that we build in-house reduces non-recurring engineering and facilitates adapting them to missions in different orbits.”

What’s more, because Millennium performs mission operations for most of its small satellites and constellations, valuable lessons learned on-orbit are funneled back to the production line. For example, information from low Earth orbit operations can provide valuable insights to missions in geosynchronous orbit and vice versa.

“We are able to use improved versions of our satellite platforms and in-house components on completely different orbits for entirely different missions,” said Shah. “We’re now bringing that same flexibility to future small satellite constellations in medium Earth orbit.”

Flexibility is also key to further diversify orbits, should missions require it. The Air Force’s space acquisition chief, Frank Calvelli, previously stressed the need for operating in atypical orbits to build resiliency. This could mean taking advantage of elliptical orbits, like polar, halo, or even Cis-Lunar, if the need arises.

“Our customers need proliferated small sat constellations that are open, modular, app-based and can operate in any orbit,” said Kim. “We’re enabling that through active production lines, manufacturing capabilities, mission knowledge and flexibility through autonomy, on-board processing and multi-path communications. We’re ready to meet this challenge – we’re ready for the new space era.”

About Millennium Space Systems
Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company, is a small satellite prime, delivering high-performance constellation solutions for National Security Space. Founded in 2001, the company's active production lines and 80% vertical integration enable the rapid delivery of small satellites across missions and orbits – LEO, MEO and GEO. For more information, visit

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