Colorado's Aerospace Industry is at the Center of Space Exploration

Apr 09, 2013, 08:00 ET from Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- This week, aerospace leaders from across the nation and around the world will be in Colorado Springs at the 29th National Space Symposium to discuss the future of space.

With the retirement of NASA's space shuttle program and a shrinking national budget, it would be easy to assume that the future of mankind's race to space has come to a standstill.

But in reality, private companies are forging ahead to develop programs and spacecraft that allow the future of space exploration and human spaceflight  to not only stay in orbit – but travel way beyond. 

This collaboration is most apparent in Colorado, which ranks first in the nation for its concentration of private aerospace employees and which has seen a remarkable 19.3 percent increase in its aerospace economy over the last decade.

"Colorado is a mile closer to space and home to some of the nation's most innovative aerospace companies including United Launch Alliance (ULA), Sierra Nevada Corporation, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.," said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. "Being in Colorado allows these companies great synergy and innovation that allows them to get a5,280-foot head start on the competition."

An Aerospace Economy Thriving on Partnerships

Since last year ULA, the preferred company to send government satellites into space, has worked with NASA to update the design of its Atlas V rocket in order to carry humans into space.

Already, the Atlas V is scheduled to launch Sierra Nevada Corporation's (SNC) Dream Chaser, an orbital space vehicle that is one of three remaining competitors in NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Program. 

Just this year, SNC, which has been working closely with the University of Colorado at Boulder, announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems to work with SNC on NASA's Certification Products Contract and to manufacture the next Dream Chaser composite structure. SNC also has several other Colorado organizations who have participated in this program.

"The Dream Chaser program is a major element of our Colorado operation and our success has been driven by the significant help we have received from our teammates," said Mark Sirangelo, head of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems. "We believe that creating innovative partnerships between industry, government, and universities is the way that future space advances will be made."

Not only is Lockheed Martin working with SNC, but the company is also the prime contractor to NASA for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the nation's first interplanetary spacecraft designed to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit on long-duration, deep-space missions. ULA will launch the Orion flight test in the fall 2014 abroad its Delta IV rocket.

"These types of partnerships and programs are critical to ensuring the successes of the nation's future missions to space," Clark said.

To Infinity and Beyond 

In addition to Colorado's strength in space travel and exploration, the state is also the nation's geospatial imaging capital. According to a study on Colorado's aerospace economy released by the Brookings Institution this year, Colorado's satellite-based services sector is growing by 8 percent annually.

"With the nation's second-largest aerospace economy and more than 400 companies working with the space industry, we're seeing that the benefits of partnerships aren't limited to just the human space flight sector," said Clark.

A prime example of the state's cross-sector collaboration: just last year, DigitalGlobe Inc. selected Lockheed Martin's Commercial Launch Services to oversee the launch of the company's WorldView-3 satellite, with ULA providing an Atlas V rocket for the mission. Ball Aerospace and ITT Exelis are constructing the satellite to collect high-resolution space images for various government agencies and private companies.

"Ball's relationship with DigitalGlobe on high-resolution earth imagery solutions goes back more than a decade with the launch of QuickBird in 2001," said Robert D. Strain, Ball Aerospace president. "This successful dynamic is truly a Colorado success story and will be enhanced when WorldView-3 joins DigitalGlobe's constellation of commercial remote-sensing satellites following launch in 2014."

A Supportive Political Environment

Even as the national government works to remedy its budget deficit, politicians in Colorado are stepping up to let the aerospace industry know that the state will continue to support legislation that will help the industry grow and thrive.

State officials are currently working with the Federal Aviation Administration to designate a spaceport in Colorado, which will expand Colorado's competitiveness by developing new opportunities in commercial space transportation, research, and development.

Colorado has also been extremely proactive in pursuing an FAA-approved unmanned aircraft systems test site in Colorado. 

"If people are curious if the aerospace industry is going to succeed, they just need to look to Colorado to see how its companies are forging ahead for the answer," said Clark.

To learn more about Colorado's space economy, visit the Colorado Space Coalition's website at

Press Contact: Janet Fritz, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation 303.620.8039.

SOURCE Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation