Colorado's major aerospace contractors are leading the nation's major aerospace projects on behalf of NASA or the U.S. Government.
- Command & Control
- Space Habitats
- Dream Chaser
Louisville-based Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems continues to work rigorously on the Dream Chaser® spacecraft through significant collaboration with other Colorado-based aerospace companies. The Dream Chaser® is a winged, lifting-body vehicle designed for both crewed and uncrewed missions to low-Earth orbit. In 2016, NASA awarded SNC a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to deliver cargo and scientific research to the ISS, as well as return and disposal services for at least six missions through 2024. SNC is also evaluating international and commercial space opportunities.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the Mars lander spacecraft for NASA’s InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission. InSight is a NASA Discovery-class mission to understand the processes that shaped rocky planets such as Mars and Earth. Scheduled to launch in 2018, a Lockheed Martin team will operate the spacecraft on its seven-month journey to Mars, its landing, and during surface operations.
Ball Aerospace will provide the spacecraft and mission integration for NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) Mission to explore black holes. The mission, slated to launch in 2020, will allow astronomers to explore the hidden details of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects, helping scientists to better understand the origin of our universe.
- Mars 2020
Lockheed Martin Space Systems will build the aeroshell and heat shield which will protect the Mars 2020 Rover during its journey to Mars and descent to the planet’s surface. SNC’s Space Systems will build critical hardware for the rover, including the descent brake and actuators for the robotic arm and sample cache system.
Colorado’s aerospace companies played a key role in the development of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which was the first to successfully fly by Pluto. New Horizons included the Student Dust Counter that was designed, built, and tested by CU-Boulder students. Ball Aerospace and the Southwest Research Institute developed the imaging equipment and instruments, Sierra Nevada Corporation supplied key components of the spacecraft’s thermal control system, and Lockheed Martin constructed the Atlas V rocket that launched New Horizons. After traveling more than three billion miles, New Horizons reached Pluto in 2015, and data from the spacecraft will be fully transmitted to Earth by late 2016.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is building the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, NASA’s first spacecraft designed to transport humans to destinations beyond low Earth orbit. Lockheed Martin’s new Orion Test Lab is the first testing facility of its kind for a NASA human- rated spacecraft built on a contractor’s campus. Following Orion’s highly successful, first high orbital test in 2014, the spacecraft’s next flight will be Exploration Mission-1, projected to be launched in 2018 on NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer) spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is a NASA asteroid sample return mission. Launched in 2016, the mission will study and return a sample of a carbonaceous asteroid to Earth for detailed analyses in 2023.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, located in Jefferson County, is developing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) next-generation geostationary weather satellites, the Geostationary Operation Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R). NOAA’s GOES satellites provide accurate, real-time weather forecasts and early warning products to NOAA’s National Weather Service and other public and private sectors. The first GOES-R satellite launched successfully in November 2016.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems is developing the U.S. Air Force’s next generation of Global Positioning System (GPS III) satellites—the newest military and civilian navigation technology that delivers three times better accuracy, provides up to eight times improved anti- jamming capabilities, and includes enhancements which extend spacecraft life 25 percent longer than the prior GPS block. The first GPS III satellite launch is planned for 2018.
Joint Polar Satellite System
Ball Aerospace designed, built, and tested the JPSS-1 spacecraft, a successor to the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership program.Expected to launch in 2017, JPSS is the nation’s next- generation of polar-orbiting environmental satellites and is a collaborative program between NOAA and NASA. Ball also integrated all five of the spacecraft’s instruments, and is performing satellite-level testing and launch support. Ball’s Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite instrument will fly on JPSS-1 and all JPSS follow-on spacecraft. Raytheon built the JPSS Common Ground System, which provides command, control, communications, data processing, and product delivery.
Raytheon, located in Aurora, is contracted by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center to deliver the Global Positioning System (GPS) Operational Control System (OCX). OCX will provide command and control of new capabilities associated with the new GPS III family of satellites as well as legacy satellites and all new civil and military signals.
United Launch Alliance
Headquartered in Centennial, ULA is America’s Ride to Space, launching one-of-a-kind science and national security missions aboard its Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. ULA also supports NASA and its partners in developing capabilities to deliver American astronauts to low Earth orbit and human exploration beyond Earth orbit. ULA has launched more than 115 consecutive, successful missions to space and has 11 launches on its manifest for 2017. ULA is designing its next-generation launch vehicle rocket, Vulcan Centaur. Beginning in 2019, the new launch system will replace both the Atlas V and Delta IV medium launch vehicles, and feature an American-made, reusable main engine.
NASA selected SNC and Lockheed Martin Space Systems among six companies to design ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats on Mars, as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies Exploration Partnership-2 (NextSTEP-2), a program to produce habitats that could support astronauts working and living outside Earth’s orbit.