CLEVELAND — When you hear about commercial space development, names like Elon Musk with SpaceX or Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin come to mind. But did you know there is a small local business that has worked in space for decades, long before those others were grabbing the headlines?
For decades NASA was the only route into space. And a local engineering company has been along for the ride, since getting its first NASA contract in 1969. ZIN Technologies engineered space flight hardware, power and propulsion systems on the space station, the shuttle, and satellites. They are a leader in micro-gravity science, with over 400 payloads flown into space.
“We understand space flight hardware environments. We understand the NASA requirements,” said Chris Sheehan, the Director of Engineering at ZIN Technologies. “But we are also folding in this commercial now that demands you go a little bit faster. And maybe take a little bit more risk.”
ZIN is not building its own spacecrafts; they are building the systems that spacecrafts need to work safely. Systems have been proved on NASA missions that are receiving attention from new space companies.
“The phone is currently ringing at a pretty good clip right now from the commercial companies,” said ZIN Technologies, President and CEO, Daryl Laisure. “Elon hasn’t called yet, but maybe he will.”
For example, SAMS, or the Space Acceleration Measurement System, that is aboard the International Space Station. It’s a network of sensors that track how the station reacts during daily operations. If you think of a car, it’s like the check engine light, but for space.
“And if it changes, from a normal operation or a normal movement that is indicative of possibly a problem,” stated Carlos Grodsinsky, COO of ZIN Technologies. “So, then you can take care of it.”
ZIN is putting its tech on multiple commercial space stations, preparing for when the ISS is taken out of service over the next decade.
“The technology is becoming obsolete on the space station. All of the computers up there have been up there for about twenty years,” stated Deena Dombrosky, a Control Systems Engineer at ZIN Technologies. “And we just need to start from scratch.”
One of the largest projects, the George Washington Carver science park, aboard Starlab, in a partnership with Nanoracks. The first science park in space, that ZIN will operate for researchers.
“We are building all the facilities, all the laboratories,” said ZIN’s Senior Vice President, Michael Johanson. “Just like you see in our building, you are going to see those laboratories in space.”
And how with all these stations get cargo from Earth? On Dream Chaser, a reusable spaceplane with power systems from ZIN. Working on the future of science in space is good for business here on the ground.
“We anticipate hiring hopefully over the next 2 to 3 years somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty highly skilled jobs here in northeast Ohio,” said Laisure. “So, we are certainly excited about that.”
Opening a new frontier in space exploration.
“If it goes on its current trajectory, we will be involved with a lot of the new programs coming down that commercial space is looking at,” said Laisure.