At the forefront of space travel and research, Colorado is trying to cash in on the space race. The state is second only to California for the aerospace economy. Colorado’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) won a $191 million space launch contract this June, for an experimental Air Force project, beating out SpaceX to launch the STP-3 mission in two years.
According to ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno, “With a mission success record of 100 percent and a tremendous heritage of 71 consecutive successful Atlas V launches, we provide the best overall launch service for our customers. ULA is the choice for customers when a critical payload must be delivered to space on-time and safely.”
Colorado has the second aerospace economy in the United States. With more than 400 aerospace companies and over 25,000 private aerospace workers, Colorado beat out both Texas and Florida. Some of the companies, such as Surrey Satellite and Ball Aerospace Technologies Corporation, are developing spacecraft to explore the final frontier, while others are researching to better understand the planet.
ULA launched the first Space Test Program mission in 2007. The STP-3 launch is a program to test new satellite and orbit technology for the U.S. military. ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that have helped in tracking weather, providing capabilities for troops, GPS navigation and understanding of the solar system.
This week, Sierra Nevada Corporation announced its selection of ULA’s Atlas V rocket to launch the first two missions of its Dream Chaser cargo system in less than three years. It will continue to launch cargo resupply missions for NASA. The first mission is set to lift off in 2020.
Corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area, Mark Sirangelo, said, “SNC recognizes the proven reliability of the Atlas V rocket and its availability and schedule performance makes it the right choice for the first two flights of the Dream Chaser. ULA is an important player in the market and we appreciate their history and continued contributions to space flights and are pleased to support the aerospace community in Colorado and Alabama.”
Colorado is currently ranked first for private aerospace employment concentration. The industry receives support from eight major space contractors, four military commands, several universities and NASA research activities. Colorado is actively developing Spaceport Colorado and has unmanned aerial vehicle assets.
The Atlas V family of launch vehicles are set to fly NASA’s most critical missions since receiving NASA’s highest and most rigorous Category 3 Certification. With the contract to launch Dream Chaser spacecraft and the selection to launch STP-3, Colorado is on track to lead the aerospace race.