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A Florida Manufacturer’s Contribution to Space Exploration: Stories Behind the Products

By FloridaMakes Network posted 06-30-2020 00:00


Astronaut working inside the structure.

Stories Behind the Products: A Florida Manufacturer’s Contribution to Space Exploration

Did you know that Southern Manufacturing Technologies (SMT), a Tampa Bay-based company, helped the lander achieve the first-ever “soft” (non-destructive) landing on a comet nucleus?

June 30 is National Meteor Watch Day. In honor of this day, we spoke with Shannon and Roy Sweatman about their company’s impact on the space industry. Florida is one of few states in the union with access to direct space launches and projects and SMT is only one of many manufacturers across the network that has a hand in making space exploration and research possible. Southern Manufacturing Technologies was founded by Roy Sweatman in 1983 with just 5 employees. Today, SMT employs about 100 people who contribute to making parts for a wide variety of aerospace platforms. Their products can be found in regional jets and airliners, including the Boeing 737 and 787, the Airbus A320neo, and even fighter jets defending our freedom. They also produce space-related products that help trigger events for satellites and other space machines to land, takeoff or reposition in outer space, making them an integral part of the process for a successful mission. Aside from helping the Rosetta spacecraft land the lander in 2014, SMT also played a role in the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover on the planet. Curiosity was a 2012 mission where NASA sent a rover to Mars to see if the planet was suitable for life and to test the planet’s environment. New Horizons, a space probe that is currently being used as a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, recently entered the Kuiper Belt four billion miles from Earth and is continuing on its mission to explore Kuiper Belt objects.

New Horizons


Currently, SMT is producing parts that will be going on the Orion. This Lockheed Martin spacecraft will be landing the first humans on Mars! “We are proud to play a role in the advancement of space exploration and defense,” said Shannon Sweatman, Chief Technology Officer of Southern Manufacturing Technologies. “While we are only creating one small component for the Orion module, our involvement highlights how vast the supply chain for space projects can be.”



Southern Manufacturing Technologies knows their work does not –– and should not –– stop when their product is launched into space. Roy Sweatman started his career as an apprentice and knows first-hand the importance of engaging future generations in this type of work. As the Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Leadership Council, he led a team of educators and industry professionals to develop Florida’s first registered Industrial Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program. “This new apprenticeship is a great step forward for manufacturers and their employees,” said Roy Sweatman, CEO of Southern Manufacturing Technologies. “It is short enough to feel attainable and with its online and hands-on programming, it is flexible enough to be used in almost any manufacturing business.” Additionally, SMT engages students all-year-round by coordinating plant tours of their facility –– allowing them to get an up-close view of the work that manufacturers do, including holding parts that go up into space encourages these students to consider careers in this high-wage sector.

As you celebrate National Meteor Watch Day tonight, remember that thanks to SMT, there is a comet floating around in space with a small part of Florida in it.

Southern Manufacturing Technologies is a member of the Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA), part of the FloridaMakes network. For more information about SMT, please contact their Business Advisor, Paula DeLuca, at

For meteor shower dates, as well as a guide to successful watching, check out the EarthSky website.

Photos sources:

NASA - Orion, NASA - Orion - Credits: NASA/Radislav Sinyak, NASA - Rosetta, NASA Curiosity & NASA New Horizons.