GATR expands Huntsville facility making portable, inflatable satellites

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Cubic Corporation held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Huntsville Monday, celebrating the expansion of its GATR Technologies facility in Cummings Research Park.

The facility has been expanded to nearly 100,000 square foot facility and quadruples the portable satellite maker’s production capacity, company officials said.

The portable satellite was never a simple idea, but its beginnings were humble.

“GATR was formed in 2004 by Paul Gierow,” said Don Nalley, GATR’s vice president of finance. “What was an idea of a new communications concept, meant for space, was started in the back of a flower shop in Huntsville, Alabama.

Cubic CEO Bradley Feldmann offered a description of what GATR produces.

“So GATR is actually a balloon that goes on the tether to the ground sort of like your pup tent, and inside is a parabolic dish,” he said. “And so you actually pull this out of a pelican case, you hook up a compressor, and you have satellite communications within 15 minutes anywhere on the planet.”

GATR has grown from just over 80 employees in 2016, to 157 today. The company expects to employ more than 200 people by October 2019.

Feldmann says there’s plenty of work to be done.

“We’re going to be delivering GATRs, in hundreds and thousands, to the United States government,” he said. ‘And it will be so much better than what the government has today. Particularly folks in the military, have deployable communications.

Roark McDonald, GATR vice president, general manager, said the company’s contract with the U.S. Army this will help their customers “achieve their goal of having operational flexibility and speed on the battlefield.”

And the GATR not just for the battlefield, McDonald said, they can be deployed following a natural disaster.

“Harvey and Irma and Maria. Houston, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico,” he said. “Our products and our team deployed to those sites to help during the disaster relief, and were there for weeks. Supporting, standing up medical operations, pharmacies, governments. We’re super proud of that, as well.

GATR was acquired by Cubic in 2016. In January, the Army awarded GATR a full-rate production contract, selecting the 82nd Airborne Division to be the first unit to be equipped.