One-on-One with Harold Montoya

SBSS Program Manager

Harold Montoya

Harold Montoya is the Director of Programs and Operations for Defense Systems for Ball’s National Defense business unit, responsible for program execution for unclassified programs in Defense Systems including the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Space Vehicle and Operations Programs.

Harold has more than 30 years of engineering and management experience in spacecraft and instrument development. Since joining Ball Aerospace in 1984, Montoya has worked NASA, commercial, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense programs including several classified programs. He was the Flight System Manager for Ball’s Deep Impact Program, the company’s first interplanetary science project for NASA’s Discovery Program, and managed the Universal Collimator Assembly project, which is a key asset within the Ball Aerospace Optical Test Facility.

Q. The first SBSS satellite is about to launch. What is the SBSS program and what is Ball’s role?
This is a Ball, Boeing and Air Force effort with Ball providing the development, design and manufacturing, integration and final testing of the satellite in Boulder, CO. We also provide Space Vehicle documents and experts for Mission Operations. Ball selected the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) 2000 which has an excellent reputation for Low Earth Orbit or LEO and EO applications. Ball also built the visible sensor which is essentially the heart of the spacecraft. This combined with the sophisticated gimbal system allows the spacecraft to point and track with precision normally associated with fast-steering mirrors. What we have here is a 500-pound payload that that can accurately slew and track at very high speeds. The Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system will revolutionize the United States Air Force’s ability to detect and track space objects, generating data the Department of Defense (DoD) will use to support military operations.

Q. What sets the SBSS program apart?
SBSS is an essential program for the Air Force as it develops space situational awareness capabilities critical to understanding potential threats in space that may affect our well-being on Earth. SBSS not only allows us to see what’s happening to U.S. assets, but also what’s happening around U.S. assets. So, SBSS is the next step for a Space Situational Network in terms of its ability to increase the capacity of what we can see at the GEO belt and on other orbits. The gimbaled payload on SBSS also gives us the capability of revisiting targets more often and providing the user community with more timely data. SBSS could ultimately provide the Air Force with mission capability that results in a constellation of satellites that use electro-optical sensors to keep tabs on activity in orbit.

How did you end up in the aerospace industry?
I have always been interested in how things work and what is more interesting than rocket ships and space exploration? While I was in college at the University of Colorado working on my engineering degree I interned as an thermal analyst on a space shuttle at former aerospace and defense company, Rockwell International. That crystallized my desire to work in this industry.

What do you do that energizes you?
I’m active in my church and each year lead a church youth group trip in which participants build homes in Mexico. I also lead the Outreach subcommittee at Ball working with local schools and community organizations to increase the interest, participation, and ultimately success of underrepresented young people in our industry. And, I love to travel.

What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
My two middle names.





EPOXI/Deep Impact





Green Propellant Infusion Mission


Hubble Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope


F-35/Lightning II


Operational Land Imager

New Horizons/Ralph



Replicated Diffractive Optics/MOIRE









Suomi NPP



WorldView spacecraft series