How AvComm is Advancing Australian Satellite Ground Stations
For over 40 years, Av-Comm Space and Defence has designed, manufactured and installed satellite ground stations for customers across Australia.
“Our family-owned business has been around for almost as long as satellites have needed supportive infrastructure on the ground,” said Michael Cratt, Av-Comm’s Managing Director. “We have brought television to homes and Wi-Fi to aeroplanes, and after a chance meeting 15 years ago at its Telemetry Tracking and Command station in Uralla, we have helped Lockheed Martin communicate with in-orbit satellites.”
Since then, Av-Comm’s relationship with Lockheed Martin has steadily grown, with the company progressing from installing basic equipment to designing and taking part in multi-million dollar programs. As the pair’s partnership has flourished, so too has Av-Comm’s overall business.
“Working with Lockheed Martin gave us the confidence to approach more customers, learn what we didn’t know and push the edge of technology. We’ve grown in leaps and bounds, from a team of three to almost 30 full-time and contract workers. We have also begun to acquire complementary businesses so we can better meet the needs of our customers,” said Michael.
Another factor critical to Av-Comm’s growth has been the company’s ability to bid for, win and deliver technically difficult programs of work.
“For our engineering staff, taking part in complex technical projects means they can push their limits and solve challenging problems. By trusting our expertise and letting us extend our scope on projects, Lockheed Martin has galvanised our team. We are a cohesive unit and feel like we are contributing to something valuable,” said Michael.
And while the scope of the contracts has played an important role, Michael said the success of Av-Comm’s relationship with Lockheed Martin comes down to the human factor.
"There’s a warmth and empathy to our interactions. And because of this, we take a lot of pride in our work," Michael said.
“After almost 20 years in the industry with Av-Comm, I’ve learnt that what sustains you is the people you deal with. And the people at Lockheed Martin make all the difference.
They treat you as equals. They have embraced the opportunity to strengthen Av-Comm and shape our future, mentoring and upskilling us so we can continue to evolve and play a bigger role in their projects,” said Michael.
Reflecting on Av-Comm’s journey, Michael said in addition to Lockheed Martin’s stewardship, being wholly family-owned had provided the business with a competitive advantage.
“In the past five years, we have seen the establishment of Australia’s Space Agency and the launch of new satellite constellations into non-geostationary orbits. The industry is rapidly innovating, and there is a gap in the market when it comes to ground stations. As a second-generation, family business we've been able to draw on our team's intergenerational expertise to remain innovative, especially in a time when skilled employees in the space sector are scarce," said Michael.
This means Av-Comm has placed a greater focus on delivering advanced and agile Australian-designed and manufactured technology.
“While our industry is rapidly advancing, the design of the satellite dishes hasn’t really changed. So, true innovation lies in the ability to use ground station technology to support different missions,” he explained. “By upgrading ground stations, which are traditionally only used for one specific mission, we can create efficiencies and ensure they continue to be relevant for missions in years to come. Our ability to do this, and to bring our local supply chain together in a flexible way to meet Lockheed Martin’s needs, is a big part of the value we bring to the table.”
The future is bright for Av-Comm and looking ahead the company hopes to expand its presence across Australia and into global markets.
“What’s exciting about Australia’s space industry today is the push to build greater resilience. There is a focus on involving small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and building capability. Our industry is growing, there are more possibilities, and with this comes room to dream," said Michael.
“Today’s ecosystem, coupled with Lockheed Martin’s support, means we can take our business as far and wide as we want to. We are looking at export opportunities, and how we can be involved in programs outside of Australia," he said. "10 years ago, companies really had to go to the United States if they had aspirations of success in the space sector. But now it is happening right here in Australia so SMEs like Av-Comm can leave a lasting legacy.”