As I watched the SpaceX rocket launch two astronauts to the International Space Station, I couldn’t help but think of how far we’ve come since I saw Neil Armstrong take that first step on the moon.
Over the intervening years, space has become an ever more active domain — critical to our economy and way of life. What many in Aurora and our metro region may not know is that our area has one of the largest concentrations of space professionals in the nation.
The numerous satellite radomes at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora — home of the 460th Space Wing —s ymbolize this level of expertise. It can be seen at the newly designated Colorado Air and Space Port in neighboring Adams County. It’s also reflected in the space curriculums at nearby academic institutions, including the University of Colorado, Metro State University and the Colorado State University Global Campus.
What may not be as evident is that our own business community is teeming with space professionals. They are actively engaged with space missions at Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Maxar, Northrup Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corporation and many smaller local space businesses.
This space expertise makes the Aurora region uniquely qualified to become the permanent home of the headquarters for the newly created U.S. Space Command. Like the U.S Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, the U.S. Space Force will reside in the Pentagon where it will organize, train, and equip our military space force. It’s operational unit, the U.S. Space Command, will actively defend our space assets, whether civil, commercial, or national security. It is their headquarters campus and personnel we hope to attract to Buckley AFB or the surrounding area.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has established an evaluation process for cities to nominate themselves and explain why they are best suited to host this new mission. Aurora has a head start in the process because the DOD already performed an initial assessment and chose Aurora as one of the nation’s four city finalists.
Aurora will build on that initial success and address the specific requirements the DOD has defined. The Aurora City Council is fully behind this pursuit and has assigned me to lead our efforts. Our team includes the Aurora Defense Council, the Colorado Space Coalition, local business leaders, industry experts, academicians and former military space professionals. Political leaders including our Senators, our regional Congressmen, area County Commissioners and surrounding cities are pitching in to help.
The reason U.S. Space Command is so important to our region has to do with our vision as a space community and our economy. Since the “golf balls” were first installed at Buckley AFB in the 1960s, a nascent and growing cadre of space professionals have moved into Aurora and our surrounding communities.
We now have more graduate-level engineers working in our region than almost any other area in the state. Buckley AFB alone generates over $1B of economic activity annually, and aerospace and defense activities produce $36 billion dollars statewide. If we win the competition to become the home of U.S. Space Command, we can expect those great jobs and the economic benefits to increase tremendously. The secondary effects will create opportunities and jobs throughout the region.
We are excited to pursue this opportunity and are confident our team of experts will represent the region well. And while we prepare to submit our work to the DOD this fall; Buckley Air Force Base will bolster our cause as they formally change their name to Buckley Space Force Base.
Aurora At-Large Council Member Dave Gruber is a retired Air Force colonel and a former senior commander at Buckley AFB. Gruber was a senior system engineer at Raytheon in Aurora and then Vice President of Satellite Operations at Nortel Government Solutions.