ISJ Exclusive: 20 years of Astrophysics excellence


Share this content


ISJ examines Astrophysics’ leadership, its innovative solutions and how family has developed one of the security industry’s most well-renowned brands.

The year 2022 marks Astrophysics’ 20 year anniversary. Founded in 2002, Astrophysics brought the technology of tomorrow to today’s security. Known for its imaging technology, Astrophysics has over 40,000 scanners deployed in more than 150 countries, safeguarding critical infrastructure, air cargo and ports and borders sites worldwide.

The American dream

An engineer, business leader and visionary, François Zayek – the company’s Founder & Chief Executive Officer – is recognised as a leading global expert in x-ray technology. His 35+ year sole dedication to x-ray innovation has kept him at the forefront of new technology for security and medical applications since the industry’s inception.

After immigrating to the US from Lebanon, François first started Astrophysics to close the technology gap he recognised between medical imaging and x-ray security. From humble beginnings in his garage, the company has grown into a security icon with eight global offices and more than 400 employees worldwide.

“In the US, you can succeed on your own merit – just be who and what you are alone,” François told International Security Journal. “You can shine with your own capabilities without needing to put others down. At Astrophysics, it is the same. We don’t bash our competition; our product should speak for itself.”

In 2015, François earned the prestigious US Ellis Island Medal of Honor. This award recognises individuals who embody and uphold America’s ideals, with past recipients including numerous US Presidents, world leaders and Nobel Prize winners. François exemplifies the success of the American dream and his character, passion for R&D and drive for excellence continues to define the Astrophysics culture.

The Astrophysics family mindset

Astrophysics is built on the notion of working together as a cohesive family and collaborating towards collective success. Management fosters a culture of putting people first and encouraging individual enterprise.

The company’s core values of respect, integrity, teamwork and loyalty stem directly from François’ vision of Astrophysics as an extended family and the types of individuals he wants to recruit as part of the Astrophysics family. A firm belief in providing everyone with opportunity shapes his approach to steering Astrophysics towards future goals.

François continued: “We don’t look short term. While other companies may live to maximise daily profitability, we look long term. A true business is about reinvesting in the company, the people and the technology for continuous and sustainable growth.”

Today, François’ son, Mark Zayek, Chief Operating Officer, represents the next generation of Astrophysics’ leadership. With 20 years of hands-on expertise from nearly every department, Mark’s career-long tenure with the company has garnered him comprehensive company, product and industry knowledge.

Mark tirelessly promotes active partnerships, solutions over products and customer service excellence. Known for his personal integrity, authenticity and results-driven management, Mark is recognised as a leading influencer in the x-ray security industry.

Mark’s business development approach has been instrumental in advancing the company’s worldwide brand recognition. He collaborates closely with the CEO to direct corporate strategy and expand Astrophysics’ global presence. Under Mark’s leadership, Astrophysics has achieved significant sales growth, entered new vertical markets and has emerged as a major industry player.

“Astrophysics is not your typical organisation,” Mark explained. “We are a family run business. We are people first over profits. Our average employee has been with us for seven years. We are the company of generations prior. This is something you just don’t see in many businesses anymore.

“Perfection is the expectation. Our team wants to complete projects because they take ownership – not because their ‘boss’ told them to. That is the difference in our organisation. There is pride in our work, our mission, our brand.”

The “Astrophysics” namesake

Dating back to World War II, Edgerton, Germeshausen and Grier, Inc. (EG&G) was a US defence contractor best known for developing nuclear detonators. EG&G acquired x-ray security company Astrophysics (formerly Skanray) in 1988 to form its own x-ray security subsidiary, EG&G Astrophysics.

At EG&G Astrophysics, François Zayek was working in medical x-ray imaging as the VP of Engineering and R&D when L3 Technologies acquired the company and then quickly dissolved it and the name Astrophysics was lost. In 2002, when François started his business, he chose to purchase the name “Astrophysics” as a recognised industry name representing the future of technology.

A history of firsts

As a non-traditional CEO and CTO, François’ engineering expertise built the Astrophysics reputation as an industry pioneer of advanced technologies that quickly set new industry standards.

Astrophysics was the first to introduce 6 Color and then 8 Color Imaging to the market. Also the first to launch Enhanced Imaging mode, Astrophysics saves operators time by automatically applying adaptive histogram equalisation to scrolling images across the screen, which elevates visible penetration and detail without the need to stop the belt and add imaging functions.

First in service innovation as well, Astrophysics enabled critical parts monitoring with Real-Time Diagnostics and made customer service more accessible than ever with its Online Service Management System (OSMS) for online real time tracking of fleet performance, claims and reporting management.

Roots in critical infrastructure

Astrophysics first entered the x-ray security critical infrastructure market with the XIS-6545, XIS-7858 and XIS-100X, which originally featured joystick controls as a creative take on the conventional operator control panel.

From there, Astrophysics launched a suite of products including the XIS-6040, now the most sold x-ray product in the world for the critical infrastructure market. Today, Astrophysics offers artificial intelligence (AI) software and the VI3D featuring 3D MotionView software with three distinct views in a combined “rocking” image for incredible depth perception and the reduction of blind spots.

Relentless innovation and extensive support for customisations has helped Astrophysics retain a dominant share of the global market in critical infrastructure security.

Revolutionising air cargo

In 2008, Astrophysics entered the air cargo market with the XIS-1517 and XIS-1818 pallet scanners. In 2011, Astrophysics was awarded the first contract in a series from the US Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate for the development of the Multi-View CT (MVCT) – the first ever system combining multi-view x-ray imaging with computed tomography (CT).

Analysts can cycle through the images for different perspectives, rotate the CT model 360° in any direction or slice through the skid from any angle with cross-sections just a few millimetres thick. The scanner brings the same screening scrutiny of checkpoint inspection to air cargo, heightening threat visibility and eliminating the need to breakbulk. With a powerful 450kV generator and 4X the penetration (up to 90 mm of steel) of conventional cargo systems, the MVCT continues to shatter limits worldwide with deployments at JFK, LHR, CDG, TLV and more.

Disrupting border security technology

In the last few years, Astrophysics has entered the complex ports and borders market, creating new products that out-design many existing technologies. The Astrophysics HXC-LaneScan fits standard traffic lanes and boasts a unique top-down imaging perspective that creates symmetry for improved visibility of nearly every location of the vehicle. Featuring a powerful 320 kV generator that penetrates up to 65 mm of steel, the HXC-LaneScan delivers unmatched imaging – enough to even distinguish individual bullets in a loaded gun.

Together with its automatic scan cycle, above or in ground installation, easy relocation and diverse integration capabilities, the HXC-LaneScan is a formidable barrier to contraband and threats. In 2021, US Customs and Border Protection awarded Astrophysics a multi-million dollar contract to deploy HXC-LaneScan systems at various border crossings.

The Astrophysics HXP-FreightScan is the ideal portal scanner for ports, weigh-stations and other freight facilities. It scans up to 160 containers per hour at nominal speed to screen significantly more freight and, if permitted, the optional TotalScan mode images truck cabs at lower energies for comprehensive inspection. For applications requiring more precise material discrimination, the HXP-TotalScan Plus upgrades the standard betatron x-ray source to a linear accelerator (LINAC).

Together with an expansive selection of integration options, the HXP-FreightScan ensures customs officials are well-equipped to uncover smuggling attempts without disrupting commerce. In 2018, the Philippine Bureau of Customs moved to deploy multiple HXP-FreightScan portals at various ports of entry, which then intercepted ~$1.89 million of contraband in the first four months of operation.

The Astrophysics Advantage

At Astrophysics, the mission is engineering a safer tomorrow. Its passion for invention drives breakthroughs in performance and integration that keep the company’s products at the forefront of advancing security trends. Recognised worldwide, the Astrophysics Advantage means knowing you have the most technologically advanced products on the market.

As Mark concluded: “The future of the company is technology. We provide a solution that improves security. We offer a partnership, not a product.”

Company timeline

• 2002 – François Zayek establishes Astrophysics out of his home garage in California, USA
• 2003 – Astrophysics sells its first 20 systems to customers around the world
• 2004 – Astrophysics HQ opens in the City of Industry, just outside Los Angeles, CA
• 2007 – The Astrophysics EMEA office opens in Jounieh, Lebanon
• 2008 – Astrophysics enters the air cargo market with the XIS-1517 and XIS-1818
• 2011 – Astrophysics wins first contract with US Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate for the development of the Multi-View CT
• 2012 – The Astrophysics Asia office opens in Manila, Philippines
• 2014 – The Astrophysics India office opens in New Delhi, India
• 2015 – The Astrophysics Research Center (ARC) opens in Ontario, CA
• 2016 – Astrophysics Mexico opens in Tijuana, Mexico
• 2017 – Astrophysics enters the ports and borders market with the HXP-TotalScan
• 2018 – The Philippines Bureau of Customs (BOC) awards Astrophysics a long term multi-million dollar contract to install HXP-TotalScan systems at ports around the country
• 2020 – Astrophysics is awarded a multi-million dollar contract for 399 XIS-6545DVS systems in Egypt
• 2021 – US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) awards Astrophysics a multi-million dollar contract to install HXC-LaneScan systems at various border crossings

This article was originally published in the December 2022 Influencers Edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox