Colorado’s Aerospace Industry Booms: From the Front Range to Outer Space

Colorado’s aerospace industry is thriving. From a mission to the moon to earth observation and quantum computing, the state’s companies and universities are contributing to the industry’s growth and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in space exploration and technology. With a rich history and a robust ecosystem of space and advanced industries, Colorado has become a hub of innovation and progress in this field.

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In recent years, Colorado has seen significant advancements in space exploration and technology. From developing cutting-edge technologies in fields such as hypersonics, interplanetary spacecrafts, cyber and more, the state is at the forefront of innovation in the aerospace industry. This is evidenced by the high concentration of major space contractors in the state, with nine of the nation’s top aerospace companies having significant operations in Colorado.

Colorado-based companies play a significant role in NASA’s space exploration programs. The Artemis program aims to land the first woman and person of color on the moon, and more than 184 Colorado companies support its supply chain. The Artemis program has several crucial components, including the Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin, the Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Services operated by Deep Space Systems, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Space, and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from Boeing. Northrop Grumman provides the solid rocket boosters, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) provides the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), which helps propel the Orion spacecraft to the Moon.

Additionally, a Colorado-based company, United Launch Alliance (ULA), is developing a new rocket called Vulcan. The Vulcan Centaur is ULA’s next-generation rocket that will replace the Atlas V and Delta IV vehicles and will have its inaugural flight later this year. The Vulcan is designed to be more cost-effective, flexible, and reliable than its predecessors, with a reusable first stage and a wide range of configurations to meet various mission requirements for the U.S. Space Force, NASA, and commercial customers.

But it’s not just established companies that are making waves in Colorado’s aerospace industry. The state’s startup scene is thriving, with companies like Astroscale and Lunar Outpost developing innovative new technologies and business models. The state’s universities and research centers are also contributing to the industry’s growth, conducting cutting-edge research and educating the next generation of aerospace professionals.

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All these developments and innovations were on display at the recent Aerospace Day at the Capitol, the largest yet with over 400 attendees and 55 exhibitors. Co-hosted by the AIAA Rocky Mountain Section, Aerospace States Associations, Colorado Business Roundtable, Colorado Space Business Roundtable, Colorado Chapter of Citizens for Space Exploration, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and Colorado Space Coalition, the event provided an opportunity for companies and attendees to network with the aerospace industry in Colorado and discuss the industry’s importance with state legislators.

The event was kicked off with a networking breakfast and the Senate reading the aerospace resolution, which underscored Colorado’s position as the top state in the U.S. for aerospace per capita, with over 30,000 aerospace workers and over 300 aerospace companies in the state. The Colorado General Assembly strongly urged and requested the federal government to “take action to preserve and enhance American leadership in space, spur innovation, and ensure our continued national and economic security by increasing funding for space exploration and activities.” During the lunch program, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera read the Aerospace Day Proclamation and her and Governor Polis gave brief remarks about the importance of the aerospace sector in the state.

Additionally, Colorado hosted the Space Symposium in mid-April, an annual event that brings together over 10,000 space enthusiasts from around the world. Held each spring in Colorado Springs, it is considered a leading showcase of the entire space community ecosystem.

The state of Colorado has long been a leader in the aerospace industry, and recent innovations and developments only serve to solidify its position. As the industry continues to evolve and innovate, Colorado will remain at the forefront of aerospace for years to come. 

 

Christie Lee
Christie Lee
Debbie Brown
Debbie Brown

Debbie Brown is president of the Colorado Business Roundtable and Christie Lee serves as Co-Chair of the Colorado Chapter of Citizens for Space Exploration and is the State and Local Affairs Director at ULA.