7 ways ION helps Launcher control costs for last-mile rocket rideshares

About Launcher

For high-efficiency space delivery company Launcher, cost control is its top priority.

An increasing number of government and private organizations aspire to launch their own payloads in space to optimize communication, navigation, search, remote sensing, or weather information, to name a few. Their most significant obstacle in satellite deployment is cost.

Launcher, a startup rocket and spacecraft company, is successfully developing the world’s most efficient rockets and transfer vehicles to deliver small satellites to orbit. Orbiter, its satellite transfer vehicle, and platform, gives government and private enterprises the ability to launch via large rideshare rockets, then customizes the orbit to meet exact needs. Orbiter can also serve as a satellite bus, integrating payloads and providing them power, propulsion, telemetry, communications, etc. Orbiter represents the most cost-efficient last mile in satellite delivery, currently delivering payloads at 1/10 the cost of dedicated launches. Its mission: drive the costs even lower.

Earlier this year, Head of Manufacturing Tim Berry assessed the factory operations and recognized the need for operational software to support Launcher’s goal of being the low-priced leader in space delivery. “Since moving into this location in 2021, we stood up extensive manufacturing capabilities, but were in the MES Stone Age before and thus we needed the software to be as awesome as the tools and talent we grew,” explained Berry. He explained that the team tediously tracked revisions and processes, using only a collection of disparate tools unable to communicate with one another.

Why Launcher Chose ION

Launcher chose ION after researching multiple options in the marketplace. As a government contractor, any SaaS that wasn’t ITAR Compliant was a non-starter. The rest of the choices lacked one feature or another, while ION ticked all the boxes. “First Resonance has a background in manufacturing, and it shows. After people tried ION, they were sold. It’s intuitive and easy to navigate around. It wasn’t a hard sell,” shared Berry.

ION Onboarding Time for Launcher

“We were onboarded and using ION in a couple of weeks,” noted Berry. He added that other solutions would have taken months for implementation.

How Launcher uses ION daily

According to Berry, Launcher uses ION for all its manufacturing and engineering operations, as well as many supply chain functions. “It’s the glue that ties everything together across the factory,” explained Berry, who added, “ION brings inventory and supply chain together into manufacturing, carrying track and trace all the way through from raw material to final product.”

Launcher uses ION to:

  • maintain its extensive vendor library and part library for revision control
  • hold all design, drawings, and machine programs
  • for inventory, to trace and track to label as all hardware moves thru the factory 
  • for work instructions procedures for those working on the floor or manufacturing hardware
  • as procedure functions for daily checklists like area maintenance activities 

7 Ways the ION positively impacts Launcher’s business

According to Berry, ION helps Launcher save time, money, and resources. The Head of Manufacturing boiled down ION’s impact to 7 specific areas:

  1. Improved inventory management, reliability, and trace (quality systems). ION makes it easier for Launcher to parse out and control the flow of hardware. It traces hardware on hand as it moves through the factory and helps to ensure hardware is there on time and everything is on hand to build things. It saves the team valuable time previously spent reviewing what’s happened to parts. 
  2. Stellar integrations. ION’s growing list of API connections helps Launcher connect to existing and new software.
  3. Much better revision control. Launcher was using Dropbox for storing design drawings and CAD files without any revision control. With ION, parts revisions and changes are tracked and controlled.
  4. Labor efficiencies. ION makes it easier and quicker for Launcher technicians and machinists to perform work because the latest instructions are always readily available and documented with pictures. For Launcher, this eliminates multiple conversations with engineering to confirm instructions. 
  5. Developer Productivity and Forecasting Improvement. ION’s check-in function helps Berry and the Launcher team forecast labor needs and track parts costs.
  6. Prevents production mistakes. “ION saves us from defects from mistakenly making an old part from an old revision, thanks to the revision control,” explained Berry.
  7. Instills and inspires confidence in our customers. Berry shared how ION has helped inspire confidence in Launcher’s customers, as he shared, “having an all-encompassing solution that takes care of trace and tracking and all of that really inspires confidence in our customers. They know you take it seriously, and you have the tools to understand what is happening with your hardware at any point.”

The one ION feature Launcher couldn’t live without 

The Part Library. Berry added that they’re looking forward to the Document and Specs library, as outlined on the ION Roadmap.

How would Launcher describe ION?

“ION takes things typically done in multiple software executions and combines them into a single software. It’s great for any application software manager, so you don’t have a million pieces of software to work with. It’s all-encompassing. It forms the brain of your factory operating system. It gives you everything you need to make and purchase things,” summarized Head of Marketing Tim Berry.