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ATK Space Systems Looks to the Future in Unveiling Expanded Facility

The Old Town building will help the Goleta company soar in its efforts to launch the next generation of space-deployable gear

Less than a year after breaking ground on a plot of land at 600 Pine Ave. in Old Town Goleta, ATK Space Systems on Thursday celebrated the opening of its new 25,000-square-foot building — an expansion the company says will allow it to develop its next generation of space-deployable gear.

“It’s hard for me to believe, but it was just over 10 months ago that we broke ground on the project,” ATK General Manager Dave Messner said.

By all accounts, the building is the result of a special collaboration of the company, the City of Goleta and The Towbes Group — landlords of the property. Business leaders, city officials and members of The Towbes Group were on hand to cut the ribbon and tour the new facility.

About 20,000 square feet of the new space is devoted to the development and assembly of ATK’s signature lightweight deployables, such as the Orion flexible array that opens like a circular Japanese fan with a diameter of about 20 feet. The design improved on previous solar arrays that powered space exploration craft by being a quarter of the weight and far more maneuverable.

“We needed the facility,” program manager Jim Spink said, pointing out the high ceilings of the assembly area, complete with an overhead crane. In another part of the building, the second floor provides room for offices and conference areas.

In fact, it was the contracts for such projects as the flexible solar array that spurred the need for the space, and the relatively quick time line in which the facility was built.

“This project reflects the collaborative partnership we have in the community,” said Vyto Adomaitis, the City of Goleta’s director of Redevelopment, Neighborhood Services and Public Safety.

The facility is one of the speedier major projects that have been completed in a city that historically has taken its time erecting new buildings.

Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen said the new space provides elbow room for more than just the the growing company.

“The effects reach out into the community,” he said, adding that about 40 additional jobs will need to be filled.

The building’s location in Goleta’s Redevelopment Area ensures future funds for more projects in Old Town, and its location in Goleta is ideal for tech and engineering partnerships with local schools, including UCSB, a university many ATK employees attended, and Dos Pueblos High School’s award-winning Engineering Academy, which is run by a former ATK engineer.

ATK Space Systems has a long history in Goleta, having launched in 1975 as AEC-Able Engineering, an outfit started in a loading bay in Old Town by two entrepreneurial engineers, Bob Crawford and Max Benton. It has since moved around Goleta but never left.

Over the years, the business has grown and changed hands, moving from designs for a better tennis racquet to a better deployable antenna and solar arrays for space exploration, global positioning systems and space exploration tools.

“We’re very fortunate to have them in our community,” said Michael Towbes of The Towbes Group.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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