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Female-owned aeronautics, space company flying high

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Metis Technology Solutions is rocketing up the Flying 40 list of fast-growing technology companies.

Joy Colucci

The woman-owned firm, founded in 2010 by earth and space scientist Joy Colucci, has hit the fast track through numerous NASA and Air Force contracts that place Metis engineers in critical support roles nationwide for space missions, satellite operations and aeronautics-related work.

The company placed No. 3 this year among the Flying 40’s top ten fastest-growing firms, thanks to a 239 percent jump in revenue, from $2.2 million in 2013 to $7.5 million last year. Its workforce hit 70 last December, up from 20 five years ago. And this year, it’s flying higher.

“We recently hit the 100-employee mark,” Colucci said. “We project over $10 million in revenue for 2018.”

The company raised its industry profile this spring as managing partner of Metis Flight Research Associates, a new joint venture it formed with Flight Research Associates and Symvionics. The Metis-led venture won a five-year, $62.8 million contract in April to provide engineering services for NASA Ames Research Center’s modeling and simulation facilities in California.

Until now, Metis had always been a subcontractor for other firms doing work for NASA and the Air Force.

“It’s a big milestone for us,” Colucci said. “We moved from subcontractor into the prime role.”

Metis is also commercializing proprietary technologies, such as the new Swarm Orbital Dynamics Advisor, a software system it developed for NASA to manage orbital maneuvers for satellite constellations.

A Metis hardware engineer replaces a propulsion system regulator on a CubeSat, used to conduct experiments while floating on the International Space Station. (Courtesy of Metis Technology Solutions)

It’s now exploring commercial applications for another patent-pending software system it built for flight simulators that alerts pilots when they deviate from standard operating procedures. It’s currently being incorporated into the “Kraken,” a simulator complex at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Metis’ work on near-earth and deep-space operations has placed Metis engineers on NASA missions to the moon and Jupiter to help plan for spacecraft events, such as the Jupiter orbit insertion of NASA’s Juno spacecraft in July 2016. Metis engineers assisted Juno ground system developers, planners and operators at NASA’s Deep Space Network operations and maintenance facility in Monrovia, Calif.

The company’s largest, ongoing project is at Kirtland Air Force Base, where it provides software development and engineering for the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Advanced Systems and Development Directorate. Nearly 20 Metis engineers work on site and in Colorado as Lockheed Martin’s largest subcontractor for that work, Colucci said.

Colucci spent more than two decades working on NASA contracts held by companies like Raytheon and Booz Allen before striking out on her own. She moved Metis’ headquarters in 2014 to Albuquerque, her husband’s hometown.

Metis has won more than two dozen awards from NASA, including the 2017 agencywide small business subcontractor of the year award. This spring, Metis received the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Stellar Award for excellence in government contracting.

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