Innovation That Echoes for Eternity

Posted on Mon, July 22, 2019
  • by: Roy Azevedo, Raytheon

In this guest blog from Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, Roy Avezedo reflects on Raytheon's role in the Apollo 11 mission and what comes next.

Without Raytheon technology, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong might not have set foot on the Moon. And, even if they made it, millions of people around the world might not have heard Armstrong’s famous words – or seen the footage of the two astronauts on the lunar surface. 

It was the guidance computer built by Raytheon that showed Apollo 11 the way to the Moon and back to Earth, and our microwave amplifiers powered the video and audio transmissions that documented space history.

On the 50th anniversary of this historic Moon landing mission, we celebrate the tremendous achievement of the men and women who made the Apollo missions successful. 

We should reignite the culture of curiosity and innovation that made that historic moment a reality, and push new technologies that make future historic moments in space possible.

Space is the next frontier of innovation. To explore that frontier, industry needs to build a culture that kindles the excitement and innovative thinking that will push us forward. 

So, how do we build that kind of culture? 

First, we need to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to pursue STEM in their education and their careers. Each year, Raytheon invests in programs that create sustainable careers for future innovators. Those programs, aided by thousands of hours from Raytheon volunteers, show students how exciting a STEM career can be. Our employees also demonstrate the power of following their curiosity and inspire students to pursue their own moonshot. 

Once those students join the workforce, we need to empower them to bring their full selves to work. That kind of culture encourages all employees to challenge the status quo and build the next groundbreaking technologies that will change the world. Our long-serving employees also need to think this way. Their institutional knowledge coupled with new ideas and new ways of doing things is a powerful combination.

Evolving a business culture takes time, but the world is changing fast. We must act at the same speed. 

I have seen this kind of thinking put into practice. Technology like IRISX, Raytheon’s Infrared Imaging Space Experiment, is one example of where we have adopted a go-fast mentality. Built in just 29 months for $30 million, IRISX is used by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory for persistent Earth viewing in geostationary orbit. With programs like IRISX, a recent college grad can step into a program, help with the design, touch the hardware and launch – all within two or three years.

Under DARPA’s Blackjack program, Raytheon is developing space-based sensors that are low in size, weight, and power. The program emphasizes low-cost payloads with short design cycles for frequent technology upgrades. 

Blackjack sensors will be networked together to operate in low Earth orbit and will be able to take a ride into space on different buses from different providers. On orbit, one of Blackjack’s applications could be missile warning, providing another layer of resilient global coverage. That kind of innovation helps make the world a safer place. 

Our technology will also soon explore the reaches of our galaxy. Raytheon’s thermal imaging sensor will seek life-sustaining water on Jupiter’s moon Europa once it departs aboard NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft in the 2020s.

We are counting on a new generation of pioneers to make their mark on space. To make this a reality, we need to remember the spirit, energy, and commitment that made Apollo 11 possible –and keep our eyes fixed on the next 50 years of Moonshots.

Roy Azevedo is the President of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.

This guest post was originally published on LinkedIn and is republished here, with permission. 

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