The Stars Are Aligning for Colorado Aerospace

The state boasts the nation's second-largest space economy

The 35th Space Symposium at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, a four-day networking-on-steroids event, was a good fit for Colorado. The state boasts the nation’s second-largest space economy, home to more than 500 aerospace-related companies employing 55,430 workers and supporting another 135,450 in other industries. But attendees at April’s event say that’s just the beginning.

Daily headlines included civil, commercial and defense-related announcements. ISAC — the nation’s first space-dedicated information sharing and analysis center — revealed it will locate at the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs. The Pikes Peak region’s Schriever and Peterson Air Force bases and Denver’s Buckley Air Force base are three of six candidates in the running for U.S. Space Command’s future headquarters.

Japan’s Astroscale — a company developing new technologies to remove orbital debris — raised $30 million in new venture capital and announced it will open its first U.S. office in Denver. Less public, but definitely notable:  Dozens of rising-star commercial and Department of Defense early-stage companies hit the floor to negotiate contracts and partnerships. They sought out leading commercial and defense space players such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Harris or Aerojet Rocketdyne and more – all of which have Colorado-based operations.

Symposium public and private meetings attracted international as well as domestic participants. Issues of worldwide interest and concern included securing space from adversary attacks, cleaning up space debris, establishing human habitats and collaborative missions on the moon, Mars and beyond. 

The symposium’s 9,000 attendees took in Tech Talks, high-powered military presentations and briefings that included updates on an initiative led by Lockheed Martin and the National Space Council to target a 2024 moon landing in preparation for future Mars exploration. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson spoke of USAF program and budget realignment to accelerate Space Defense and Deterrence initiatives, while Northup Vice President Kent Rominger provided updates on the OmegA Capture/OmegA Rocket development in support of National Security Space Launch.  

U.S. Strategic Command’s Gen. John E. Hyten addressed the need for hypersonic missile defense satellites in lower Earth orbits. Hyten – the proposed vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – also sees an opportunity for the DoD to leverage commercial rocket and satellite technology.  “We really haven’t spent a lot of money and time exploring these concepts,” he said.

Aerospace industry leaders seemed to universally see the symposium as a launch pad for innovation. Among candidates hoping to locate at the Colorado Air and Space Port, under construction on 3,200 acres south of Denver International Airport, was Exodus Space Corp. CEO Miguel Ayala, whose Denver-based company is developing innovative Horizontal In-Line Launch Staging (HILLS). The company is in the midst of critical design review and plans flight tests in California and New Mexico in the near future.

Ayala was joined by former Johnson Space Center Director and Exodus board member Scott Hartwig.  Both agreed that Colorado offers a top location for growing companies. “The timing has never been better,” Hartwig said. “There’s exploding interest in space right now.”

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