Major Projects

Leading the nation's most notable aerospace projects

Colorado's major aerospace contractors are leading the nation's major aerospace projects on behalf of NASA or the U.S. Government. 

  • Spacecraft
  • Satellites
  • Command & Control
  • Launch
  • Space Habitats

Dream Chaser®

Sierra Space is developing the Dream Chaser spacecraft through significant collaboration with other Colorado-based aerospace   companies. Owned and operated by Sierra Space, the Dream Chaser spacecraft is a reusable, multi-mission, space utility vehicle. It is capable of transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides, and is the only commercial, lifting-body vehicle capable of a runway landing. The Dream Chaser Cargo System was selected by NASA to provide cargo delivery and disposal services to the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. The Shooting Star cargo module is a 15-foot attachment to Dream Chaser that provides extra storage for payloads, mission options and facilitates cargo disposal upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

InSight Mission

Lockheed Martin 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. Launched in 2018, the Lockheed Martin team operated the spacecraft on its seven-month journey to Mars, successfully landed the spacecraft on the surface, and continues to provide surface operations.

IXPE Mission

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

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission was successfully launched by United Launch Alliance (ULA), with the Mars Perseverance rover landing in 2021 for a two-year exploration of the Martian surface. Lockheed Martin built the aeroshell and heat shield which protected the rover during its journey to Mars and descent to the planet’s surface, and also the delivery system for the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems built critical hardware for the rover, including the descent brake and actuators for the robotic arm and sample cache system.

Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope

 Ball Aerospace will design and develop NASA’s Wide Field Instrument (WFI) Opto-Mechanical Assembly for the Roman mission. Roman will advance our under- standing of the nature of dark energy and dark matter and provide unparalleled views of the outer solar system, planets around other stars, and the stellar populations of nearby and distant galaxies. Ball will support the optical-mechanical assembly, integration and test of WFI, providing the stable structure and thermal environment that enables the wide field, high quality observations of WFI.

NASA’s Discovery programs VERITAS and DAVINCI+

To be designed, built, and operated by Lockheed Martin, VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) and DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will launch 2028-2030 to study Venus' dense atmosphere, topography, and geologic processes. These programs represent NASA's return to Earth's sister planet after more than three decades.

New Horizons

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 in 2015. 

Orion

Lockheed Martin is building the Orion, NASA’s first spacecraft designed to transport humans to destinations beyond LEO, such as the Moon and Mars. Lockheed Martin’s Orion Integrated 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 test flight in 2014, the spacecraft’s next flight on the Artemis-1 mission will be launched on NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket.

OSIRIS-REx

Lockheed Martin built NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is an asteroid sample return mission. Launched in 2016, the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer reached the asteroid Bennu, successfully tagged the asteroid in October 2020, and retrieved a sample. OSIRIS-REx is expected to return with the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF)

The final AEHF satellite of the six-satellite constellation was launched in 2020, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The constellation of six geostationary spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin Space for the U.S. Space Force, will enable connectivity to armed forces around the globe, making warfighters safer and more effective.

GOES-R

Lockheed Martin is developing the next-generation geostationary weather satellites, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R), which includes GOES-R (launched in 2016), GOES-S (launched in 2018), GOES-T, and GOES-U. The GOES-R series provide critical, real-time observations for forecasts and warnings to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service and other public and private sectors. 

Global Positioning System (GPS)

Lockheed Martin is helping the U.S. Space Force modernize GPS with new technology and capabilities, building up to 32 next-generation GPS III satellites at its Jefferson County facility. The most powerful GPS satellite ever designed, GPS III will provide three times more accuracy, up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities, and a new civil signal compatible with other international navigation satellite systems.

Joint Polar Satellite System

Ball Aerospace designed, built, and tested the JPSS-1 spacecraft, a successor to the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership program. Launched 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.

Weather System Follow-on

Microwave (WSF-M) WSF-M is a DoD program to address critical space-based environmental monitoring (SBEM) requirements, providing the warfighter with environmental intelligence to address three critical SBEM gaps: ocean surface vector winds, tropical cyclone intensity, and LEO energetic charged particle characterization (a space weather gap). Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for the WSF-M mission and will deliver the payload, spacecraft and a fully integrated space vehicle to launch.

Strategic and missile defense programs

 

Colorado is a key location for national defense program activity. Boeing leads the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and also provides mission operations support to Global Positioning System satellite, Wideband Global SATCOM, and the Space Based Space Surveillance program systems.Lockheed Martin conducts work on the Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile program, the Hypersonics programs of several military services, and the Next Generation Interceptor program from its Colorado location. Northrop Grumman performs the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the weapon system replacement for the current intercontinental ballistic missile system, that will address changing technology and emerging threats through 2075. Raytheon Technologies is developing the      GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System (GPSOCX), the enhanced ground control segment of a U.S.Air Force-led effort to modernize America’s GPS system. 

Strategic and missile defense programs

 

Colorado is a key location for national defense program activity. Boeing leads the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and also provides mission operations support to Global Positioning System satellite, Wideband Global SATCOM, and the Space Based Space Surveillance program systems.Lockheed Martin conducts work on the Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile program, the Hypersonics programs of several military services, and the Next Generation Interceptor program from its Colorado location. Northrop Grumman performs the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the weapon system replacement for the current intercontinental ballistic missile system, that will address changing technology and emerging threats through 2075. Raytheon Technologies is developing the      GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System (GPSOCX), the enhanced ground control segment of a U.S.Air Force-led effort to modernize America’s GPS system.

 

United Launch Alliance

With more than 1,100 employees headquartered in Centennial, ULA is the nation’s most experienced space launch company with more than 145 consecutive successful launches. In 2022, ULA will continue its partnership with Boeing to launch the Starliner capsule on an Atlas V rocket in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew program which will return astronauts to space from U.S. soil. ULA is also developing the purpose-built Vulcan Centaur rocket, combining the proven heritage of ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets with new technologies and innovative features to deliver a reliable and cost-effective launch service.

 

Next Generation Space Stations

As NASA prepares for the retirement of the International Space Station, several Colorado companies are among those awarded NASA contracts to develop private space stations. Nanoracks, a company majority-owned by Denver-based Voyager Space Holdings, is developing the Starlab commercial space station concept in partnership with Lockheed Martin Space. Blue Origin is partnering with Sierra Space to develop the Orbital Reef station.

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