AURORA | Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base is officially out of the running to become the permanent home for the U.S. Space Command — and about 1,400 people — but Colorado Springs still has a chance.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet announced Thursday that Colorado Springs — which was already picked as the temporary headquarters of the new military command— is a finalist alongside other Air Force bases in five states.
The Space Command will be based on Colorado Springs’ Peterson Air Force Base for the next six years as the new military branch is built up. A final decision is expected in January.
The joint military branch was revamped in 2019 to “deliver space combat power” for U.S. forces while conducting operations “in, from and to space.”
In a statement, Bennet congratulated Colorado Springs.
“I also offer my gratitude and congratulations to all those across Colorado, especially the Aurora community, who have worked tirelessly for the last year to reinforce Colorado’s identity as the epicenter of the nation’s national security space mission,” he said.
For months, Aurora officials had been gunning to establish the Space Command at Buckley because of purported economic benefits.
Aurora Congressman Jason Crow and city Councilmember Dave Gruber both said the city will still benefit if Colorado Springs can land the permanent headquarters.
“Aurora developed a strong proposal explaining why the Air Force should choose Buckley AFB, but we were unsuccessful,” Gruber said in a statement. “With the highest per capita number of space professionals in the nation, all of Colorado will benefit if Colorado Springs is selected.”
Bringing the Space Command to Colorado is one wing of an economic development plan focused on building up an “aerospace alley” across Front Range cities.
The state’s aerospace industry is the second-largest in the U.S., according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. More than 27,000 employees in 1,000 companies, including defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, contributed $6.8 billion to the state’s economy in 2019, or 1.7% of the state’s gross domestic product that year.
In Aurora, aerospace firms Reaction Engines and PD Aerospace are crafting rocket engines and “spaceplane” technology. Local leaders have often joked that, when blasting into the atmosphere from Colorado’s high-altitude plains, “the first mile is free.”
The role of the new Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and communications for troops and commanders in the field and providing warning of missile launches abroad, according to the Associated Press.
The renewed focus on space as a military domain reflected concern about the vulnerability of U.S. satellites, both military and commercial, that are critical to U.S. interests and are potentially susceptible to disruption by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons.