Honeywell Aerospace Picks Paragon Space Development Corporation
17 Sep 2017 by BizDESIGN in Aerospace & Defense, FALL 2017
By June C. Hussey –
When NASA Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon in 1969, fellow earthlings looked on in awe. Nearly a half century later, aerospace experts like Tucsonan Ron Sable are predicting with confidence that the very same kids who witnessed that giant leap for mankind on their parents’ nifty new color consoles will quite likely witness the first Mars walk, too.
Sable, 74, has been poised on the leading edge of aerospace technology ever since his earlier days in the Air Force, Department of Defense, Ronald Reagan’s White House and McDonnell Douglas. Today he serves as chairman of the board of Tucson-based Paragon Space Development Corporation. Sable said he would be thrilled to see, in his own lifetime, two people return safely from a 500-day round-trip mission into deep space. Regardless of when such a manned space mission is ultimately accomplished, Sable and the 40-member team at Paragon will have played a big part.
Founded in 1993 by five principal partners, including current President and CEO Grant Anderson and former Biospherians Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter (who now lead Paragon-incubated WorldView Enterprises), Paragon describes itself as a world leader in the design and manufacture of thermal control and life-support systems for extreme environments. After spinning off WorldView Enterprises in 2014, Paragon’s board elected Sable as chairman to steer the future development of Paragon’s patented life- support and thermal systems.
Whether on Earth, in deep space or 20,000 leagues under the sea, water and oxygen are vital to human survival, Sable said. Building innovative systems that deliver and regenerate these vital elements has catapulted Paragon into the scientific stratosphere. With headquarters in Tucson and offices in Houston and Denver, Paragon’s client list includes NASA, the Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and extraordinary private citizens like Alan Eustace.
Eustace, a Google executive, quietly hired Paragon to orchestrate his three-year quest to clinch the world record for the highest space dive. In 2014, donning a Paragon-designed spacesuit with elaborate life-support systems, Eustace ascended and then descended over 25.5 miles from the upper stratosphere at speeds up to 822 miles per hour – breaking the sound barrier – before pulling his chute and landing within his target zone near Roswell, New Mexico. A support crew by his side within 15 seconds confirmed his good health. Eustace’s descent from 135,890 feet not only beat the previous record of 128,100 feet set in 2012 by Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner, it also left him a lot less banged up, thanks to Paragon’s high-tech wizardry.
Pushing the envelope of space exploration isn’t just about setting records – it’s also about yielding innovative technologies that improve how we live. Most modern communication devices wouldn’t exist without satellites, and without GPS to guide our every move, many of us would feel lost. Space exploration led to both.
Working on Eustace’s space dive afforded Paragon the opportunity to design, patent and implement a new drogue chute deployment system that prevents entanglement between a pilot and his or her parachute while ejecting at high altitudes, where there is insufficient wind pressure to deploy the chute. This technology can be easily adapted to increase safety during ejection events aboard emerging high-altitude piloted aircraft, balloons and spacecraft.
Paragon’s principal role in Eustace’s high-profile space dive also helped launch the company once and for all into rarified air. By April 2017, Paragon had entered into a teaming agreement with Honeywell Aerospace to design, build, test and apply environmental control and life-support systems for future human NASA programs.
“For a Fortune 500 company to reach down to a small company and say ‘We want to work with you,’ is really something incredible,” said Sable. “We’d been working on it for about four years. This is a testament to the reputation Paragon has earned as a cutting-edge leader in life support. That’s the whole thing – you have to have water and oxygen for these deep space habitats.”
“A renewed interest in developing a deep space habitat needed for reaching the Moon and Mars, continued experimentation aboard the International Space Station, and a desire to push the limits of unmanned flights make this a remarkable time in space exploration,” said Marty Sheber, VP of Honeywell Aerospace’s space division, in a press release issued by Honeywell announcing the two companies’ agreement. “Unmanned achievements are now giving way to long-distance and long-duration human missions. The technology developed by Honeywell and Paragon will give humans the opportunity to explore space for longer periods than before.”
Paragon’s Anderson said, “This agreement allows the Honeywell and Paragon team to provide fully integrated solutions to NASA – combining our strengths of experience and innovation in technology with an agile and customer-focused responsiveness. Potential prime contractors and NASA will have access to a system-focused integration team with a catalog of proven and emerging technology to bring long-duration exploration of the Moon and Mars to practical implementation.
“Ever since the teaming agreement was announced, we’ve been fielding multiple inquiries from all levels of NASA and their contractors for alternatives to current systems and technologies.”
According to Paragon’s Chief Engineer, Barry Finger, NASA is expected to begin cis-Lunar human exploration missions in approximately 10 years and if the current timelines hold, human exploration missions to Mars could commence by early to mid-2030.
When that day comes, Tucsonans can feel rightfully proud that neighbors like Sable and Anderson played a big part in outfitting this next giant leap for mankind.