Category: Aerospace

13 local firms named to Colorado OEDIT’s ‘Companies to Watch’ list

DENVER — Nine companies based in the Boulder Valley and four in Northern Colorado are among the 50 Colorado Companies to Watch for 2016 that were announced Friday evening.

Seven of the companies are based in Boulder: Agribotix Inc., Astra LLC, Avid4 Adventure Inc., Purely Elizabeth, Quinn Snacks, SnapEngage and Kindara Inc.

Sustainable Supply in Broomfield and Liqid Inc. in Lafayette made the list.

Companies in Northern Colorado include Canyon Bakehouse and Good Day Pharmacy in Loveland, CPP Inc. in Fort Collins and All Phase Restoration in Windsor.

The 50 winning firms are second-stage companies. They were honored for innovation and economic impact. Chosen from more than 1,000 nominations, the winners represent a range of industries and are recognized for their success and potential for growth, community involvement, philanthropy and corporate culture.

In 2015, this year’s winners employed 1,913 full-time employees and are expecting to create 380 new jobs in 2016. They combined for $503 million in revenue in 2015 and are expected to earn $679.9 million in 2016.

The awards program was launched in 2009 by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation and community partners from across Colorado.

Woodward commemorates completion of first two phases of Lincoln Campus

FORT COLLINS — Woodward Inc., a designer and manufacturer of components for the aerospace and industrial markets, on Tuesday held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of the first two phases of its Lincoln Campus in Fort Collins.

The first two phases consist of a 60,000-square-foot headquarters building and a 303,320-square-foot building that houses the company’s industrial turbomachinery systems division. The cost of the two phases totaled about $134 million.

The campus is located at 1041 Woodward Way between East Lincoln Avenue and East Mulberry Street, west of South Lemay Avenue. It occupies the former 101-acre Link-n-Greens golf course.

When built out, the Woodward Technology Center will consist of 660,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space, and is expected to employ up to 1,700 people.

Chicago-based Mortenson Construction, which has a development office in Denver, was the general contractor for the first two phases of the project. The design team on both buildings was led by Dearborn, Mich.-based Ghafari Associates LLC.

Work on the campus began in 2013 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

Woodward’s products are used in fixed-wing and rotorcraft platforms in commercial, business and military aircraft, ground vehicles and other equipment.

Louisville engineering firm Roccor moves to Longmont

LONGMONT – Engineering firm Roccor LLC is getting settled in its new Longmont digs after moving last week from Louisville with an eye on significant growth for the rest of 2016.

Roccor cofounder and vice president of technology Will Francis said Tuesday that the 17-person company expects to grow to 25 to 30 employees by the end of the year. And while the company has so far leased 8,500 square feet at 2602 Clover Basin Drive, he said Roccor could be adding more space in the building sometime in the next three months.

Roccor had been sharing about 6,000 square feet of space in the Colorado Technology Center with Solid Power. Francis said the move to Longmont not only provided convenience for several Roccor employees who live in the city but also more affordable real estate for the growing company.

“(The added space) is definitely needed,” Francis said.

The space at 2602 Clover Basin had previously been occupied by ABSL Space Products, which was acquired by Enersys Advanced Systems in 2011 and relocated within Longmont. The space already included a clean room where Roccor will be able to assemble flight hardware for satellites.

Founded in 2011, Roccor’s aerospace products include deployable structures for satellites, including solar arrays, antennas and booms. The company, which merged earlier this year with another former Louisville firm, ITC Solutions, also has a division focused on thermal management products that are primarily in the research and development phase.

Francis said Roccor, which licenses much of its intellectual property from the U.S. Air Force, has contracts for $5 million in work lined up so far for 2016.

The Longmont Economic Development Partnership announced Roccor’s move Tuesday. Francis said the company did not receive incentives from the city of Longmont to make the move.

“We worked closely with the Longmont Economic Development Partnership as part of our relocation effort and look forward to making Longmont our home for many years to come,” Roccor CEO Douglas Campbell said in a press release.

Ball’s 1Q earnings, revenue miss estimates

BROOMFIELD — Citing tough price competition in China and startup costs for growth projects, Ball Corp. on Thursday reported a loss of 90 cents per share for the first quarter, compared with earnings of 15 cents a share for the same period last year.

During the first quarter that ended March 31, Broomfield-based Ball (NYSE: BLL) had costs related to the startup of a can-manufacturing line at its facility in Monterrey, Mexico, and its Boulder-based aerospace division acquired Wavefront Technologies.

Total revenue declined 8.7 percent year over year to $1.76 billion in the first quarter, also falling short of the Zacks estimate of $1.9 billion.

Revenue declined 8.4 percent year over year to $937 million in the metal beverage packaging segment for the Americas and Asia; that division’s operating earnings of $102 million were down 18.4 percent year over year.

In the aerospace and technologies segment, sales fell 16.3 percent year over year to $180 million. Operating earnings decreased to $18 million from $20 million in the year-ago quarter. The segment reported a backlog of $729 million.

Ball had cash and cash equivalents of $205 million at the end of the first quarter that ended March 31, compared with $229 million at the end of the first quarter of 2015. Its long-term debt increased to $5.4 billion from $3.1 billion at the end of the same quarter last year.

Near the close of Thursday’s trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Ball’s shares were down 2.5 percent at $73.01.

Woodward reports $3 million 2Q earnings decline

FORT COLLINS – Slower growth in China and the impacts of low oil and gas prices led to a second-quarter earnings decline of roughly $3 million for Fort Collins-based manufacturer Woodward Inc. (Nasdaq: WWD).

Woodward officials on Tuesday afternoon reported the company’s fiscal results for the period ending March 31.

Woodward’s net income came in at $40.8 million, or 65 cents per diluted share, for the company’s second fiscal quarter, compared with $43.9 million, or 66 cents per diluted share for the same period a year earlier.

Sales declined 3 percent to $479 million, with gains in the company’s aerospace segment offset by an 11 percent slide for Woodward’s industrial segment.

Woodward makes components and control-system solutions geared toward energy efficiency for the aerospace and industrial industries.

A depressed market for natural-gas trucks in Asia continues to drive part of the decreased profitability of Woodward’s industrial segment along with commodity prices in the energy industry, although company officials said strength in the industrial turbomachinery aftermarket helped offset some of those declines.

Woodward’s aerospace segment, meanwhile, saw sales grow 3 percent to $291 million and earnings increase by 11 percent thanks primarily to strength in commercial aftermarket and defense sales.

“For the second half of the fiscal year, we continue to expect strong aerospace results and improving performance in our industrial segment, although significant challenges remain,” chief executive Thomas Gendron said in the company’s earnings report. “For fiscal 2016, net sales are still expected to increase one to two percent over fiscal 2015, and earnings per share are still expected to be between $2.75 and $2.95.”

CU pair’s aim: Better, cheaper space research

BOULDER — A pair of University of Colorado Boulder researchers have launched a startup company with the aim of reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of conducting experiments in space, thus making such research much more accessible to scientists on Earth.

The hope is that doing so will aid in the fights against pressing issues such as antibiotic resistance by providing a more powerful research platform for testing new drugs and examining how bacteria develop and evolve because of the accelerated effects microgravity tends to have on bacteria.

The Space Research Co. — founded in January 2015 by Christine Fanchiang and Luis Zea — is likely two to three years away from serving its first customer. But the duo got a nice boost of confidence earlier this month from taking third place in the CU New Venture Challenge, a cross-campus business pitch competition for students and faculty that allows the entrepreneurs to work with mentors and hone their business ideas over the course of a few months.

Luis Zea

Zea

Zea earned his doctorate in aerospace engineering from CU last year and currently is a research associate at the school. Fanchiang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad who worked at Northrup Grumman, is working on her own doctorate in the same field at CU.

“It’s been so helpful coming from an engineering background and not understanding what investors are looking for or what it takes to build a business,” Fanchiang said of the New Venture Challenge.

TRSCo’s model is two-pronged. One aspect is to provide the service of helping scientists get their experiments launched into space, interfacing with NASA to make sure the experiments are being conducted with approved hardware and meet all of the space agency’s requirements. The second aspect is in the hardware that TRSCo is creating.

TRSCo is developing a microfluidics platform in which tiny amounts of fluid would control experiment samples so that the entire experiment can fit on a 3-D printed card the size of a credit card. Those cards would be inserted into a 4-inch, sensor-filled “biocube” that conducts the experiments, gathers results and enables genetic analysis. The cubes also would be capable of transmitting the databack to the scientists on Earth so that they don’t have to wait for the return of their samples months later.

The automation aspect of the biocubes would make life easier for astronauts on the International Space Station, who have limited time and dozens of experiments to conduct.

The decreased size of the experiments also helps significantly reduce costs for scientists. While sending an experiment to space now can cost $250,000 to $1 million depending on complexity, Fanchiang said TRSCo is hoping to bring that cost down to a range of $10,000 to $350,000.

“The smaller you can make these things, the cheaper it is for everybody,” she said.

TRSCo’s service-based model isn’t unlike that of BioServe Space Technologies, a center housed in CU’s engineering school that helps scientists translate experiments into a form that can be easily conducted in space. Both Fanchiang and Zea, in fact, have worked at BioServe during their time at CU, learning how to send science into space. But Fanchiang said BioServe is generally dealing with larger and more complex growth systems that require lots of astronaut time. TRSCo would be focused on experiments looking at genetic changes that require less human involvement.

The size and automation aspects of the biocubes also raise the possibility that TRSCo could send experiments into space that could be conducted somewhere other than the space station. While the ISS is TRSCo’s initial aim, the growing demand for commercial space services means the company conceivably could send experiments to space to be conducted aboard unmanned spacecraft or even to be launched from micro satellites.

“Because we’re automating it, we have a lot of other options besides just the International Space Station,” Fanchiang said.

While the possibilities are exciting, Fanchiang knows her company has a long road ahead. Startup costs have been only about $5,000 so far, but she estimates that it will take $800,000 to get to commercialization, money the company is hoping primarily to pull in from SBIR grants for which it has applied. Contingent upon funding, she said, the goal is to have a prototype by the end of this year and to have hardware launched and on the space station by the end of next year for testing.

“We’re fairly new at this,” Fanchiang said, “so we’re trying to figure out exactly what hardware we need to make it helpful to the scientists.”

Joshua Lindenstein can be reached at 303-630-1943, 970-416-7343 or jlindenstein@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joshlindenstein

CU-built hardware hitching ride to space station

BOULDER — Hardware designed and built at the University of Colorado Boulder is headed to the International Space Station and will be used in four bioscience experiments that could lead to advances in medical care.

Developed by BioServe Space Technologies in CU-Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, the hardware is aboard the commercial SpaceX Dragon capsule that was launched Friday from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

BioServe hardware includes several shoebox-sized devices known as “plate habitats” to support a range of life-science experiments. Each habitat is used to culture biological organisms, according to BioServe’s director Louis Stodieck.

One experiment is designed to better understand cell biology by charting the behavior of yeast cell cultures in microgravity. Since multicellular yeast colonies are similar to mammalian cell tumors, researchers hope to identify biological factors that may contribute to the health and disease of humans in space and on Earth, Stodieck said.

A second experiment is designed to help researchers better understand the mechanisms of molecular transport across tiny membrane channels, with implications for future human implants that could release drugs to treat various diseases, he said.

The third experiment will involve culturing fungi, which could lead to the production of new pharmaceuticals.

The fourth experiment will look at developing treatments for bone and muscle loss by both space travelers and people on Earth, Stodieck said. The experiment could help lead to new treatments of muscle and bone diseases in humans like muscular dystrophy, osteoporosis and cancer cachexia, a syndrome of progressive weight loss in cancer victims due to loss of skeletal muscle and body fat.

The experiments were created by researchers at University of Southern California, the Durham VA Medical Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, Lilly Research Laboratories in Indianapolis, Indiana and the Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas.

Since its inception in 1987, BioServe has partnered with more than 100 companies and performed dozens of NASA-sponsored investigations, Stodieck said.

“We believe these experiments in the microgravity of space are extremely valuable for both research and education,” Stodieck said. “By conducting experiments in microgravity, scientists can learn more about biochemical changes in cells and organisms that the force of gravity on Earth may be masking.”

BioServe researchers and students have flown hardware and experiments on more than 50 missions aboard NASA space shuttles, the ISS and on Russian and Japanese government cargo rockets.

Ball Aerospace shows off spacecraft that will test ‘green’ rocket fuel

BOULDER — Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. on Thursday said the spacecraft it has been building for the past three years that will be used to test a more efficient and safer rocket fuel is ready for takeoff.

Ball showed the media, politicians and the some of the mission’s team members the small, shiny spacecraft that will be put in storage awaiting a launch in early 2017 for the 13-month test flight.

NASA’s Green Propulsion Infusion Mission is hoping to find a fuel to replace hydrazine — a toxic and corrosive fuel that has been used since 1960.

The new “green” fuel offers higher performance and is safer to handle and is easier on the environment than traditional chemical fuels, said Steve Jurczyk, a NASA administrator who spoke at the event.

“We expect a 50 percent decrease in cost while improving performance,” Jurczyk said. “The fuel also has a lower freezing point, reducing the amount of heat needed to keep it in a liquid state in space.”

The mission will test how well the fuel works with thrusters, the key to maneuvering a craft in space. If successful, it could lead to widespread use in future NASA and commercial missions, Jurczyk said.

The fuel uses hydroxyl ammonium nitrate as its base. It is 45 percent denser than hydrazine, meaning more of it can be stored in containers of the same size. Lab tests show it has an approximate 50 percent increase in spacecraft maneuverability for a given volume.

“We are increasingly reliant on satellites for communications, for monitoring weather conditions on Earth and for exploration of the universe,” Jurczyk said. “It’s important we develop technology that increases protections for launch personnel and the environment, and has the potential to reduce costs.”

Ball’s Chris McLean, the principal investigator for the mission, said people working around the fuel and loading it onto spacecraft “don’t have to worry as much about exposure,” adding that “explosion ratings are down. … A spacecraft will be able to fly 50 percent longer.

“There are always going to be situations in which it makes sense to use hydrazine fuel,” McLean said. “But after GPIM, when we’re planning missions where this new green propellant has the potential for significant benefits, we’ll be able to say, ‘This has been demonstrated on orbit. Let’s take advantage of these improvements for our mission.”

The complexity of the mission wasn’t lost on Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of space programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. in Redmond, Wash., which played a key role in developing new thruster technology.

“I dare say it … this is rocket science,” Van Kleeck said, who along with McLean, is ecstatic over the “incredible” level of cooperation and collaboration between the many companies and agencies it took to get to this point of the mission.

As the prime contractor and principal investigator, Ball collaborated with a team made up of people from Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA Glenn Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, with additional mission support from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Kirkland Air Force Base. There were also about 30 suppliers of components and materials from across the country involved. The team received a $45 million award from NASA in August 2012 to demonstrate the new rocket fuel.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who is on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, said Colorado is seen as a leader in space exploration because of Ball.

“We need this kind of research to make sure it works. These kinds of things move us forward. … This shows our progress,” he said.

Cyberstates: Colorado’s concentration of tech workers ranks 3rd

The state of Colorado ranked 13th in the nation in the number of people employed in the tech industry in 2015. But as a percentage of the private-sector workforce, tech plays a larger role in just two other states.

That’s according to the latest annual Cyberstates report released by the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA. The Cyberstates report, in general, includes in its definition of the tech industry sectors involved in making, creating, enabling, integrating or supporting technology either as a product as a service – but not industry sectors categorized merely as users of technology.

The report noted that Colorado’s 2015 tech industry employment of 187,242 accounted for 9 percent of all private-sector workers. The only states with higher concentrations of tech workers were Massachusetts (9.8 percent) and Virginia (9.5 percent). Maryland was fourth at 8.6 percent, followed by California and Washington at 8.2 percent. Nationwide, the figure is 5.7 percent.

Colorado’s number of tech jobs increased by 3,088, or 1.7 percent, in 2015. The state’s tech industry payroll was $19.9 billion, with the average wage in the tech industry in Colorado hitting $106,350.

That average wage figure is nearly double the private-sector average wages for all industries in Colorado, a number that stood at $53,400 in 2015.

The report states that the tech industry accounts for 11.5 percent of the state’s economy. That figure put Colorado third behind Oregon (23 percent) and Washington (12.6).

Applications software developers led the tech charge in Colorado with 22,800 employed in the sector in 2015, followed by computer user support specialists at 13,600 and systems software developers at 11,500.

Compared to the nation, however, Colorado’s space and defense systems manufacturing industry ranked highest. Colorado had 6,300 people employed in the industry, placing it fifth behind California (23,100), Arizona (11,400), Florida (6,700) and Massachussetts (6,600).

Nationally, There were 6.7 million people employed in the tech industry in 2015, up 198,200. The 3 percent growth rate from 2014 is the highest in more than a decade, according to the Cyberstates report. The 6.7 million figure doesn’t include an additional 1 million tech workers categorized as self-employed or sole proprietors.

Ball Aerospace acquires Maryland-based Wavefront Technologies

BOULDER — Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. on Friday closed the acquisition of Maryland-based Wavefront Technologies for an undisclosed sum.

Officials for Boulder-based Ball don’t expect any immediate employment cuts or additions for either company locally or elsewhere.

Wavefront, headquartered in Annapolis Junction, will keep its facility but become part of Ball Aerospace’s Systems Engineering Solutions business unit, which has the bulk of its 600 employees in Dayton, Ohio.

Ball’s SES business unit works primarily with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico, analyzing data from space, air and land to create visualizations and provide actionable intelligence for the military.

Wavefront is a specialized engineering services firm that provides systems and network engineering, software development and analytical services for cyber and mission-focused programs within the U.S. government and commercial industries. The acquisition of Wavefront will help Ball leverage its own hardware technologies developed by the company.

Wavefront has about 110 employees, which are all expected to become employees of Ball Aerospace, a subsidiary of Broomfield-based Ball Corp., (NYSE: BLL).

Shares of Ball Corp. stock were up 42 cents Monday afternoon to $67.24.