Colorado's major aerospace contractors are leading the nation's major aerospace projects on behalf of NASA or the U.S. Government.
- Command & Control
- 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 Space Utility Vehicle designed for ISS cargo and crew transportation, as well as other missions, including international and commercial space applications. In 2016, NASA awarded SNC a Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract to deliver cargo and scientific research material to the ISS using the Dream Chaser® spacecraft through 2024.
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 for launch in May 2018, a Lockheed Martin team will operate the spacecraft on its seven-month journey to Mars, its landing in late November 2018, and during surface operations.
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, such as the moon, asteroids, and eventually Mars. 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 the uncrewed 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. Following launch in September 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 launch is scheduled for October 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 further than the prior GPS block. The first satellite is currently in rigorous testing prior to final delivery.
Joint Polar Satellite System
NASA, on behalf of NOAA, awarded Raytheon a $1.8 billion contract for the ground system to support the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), a successor to the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership program. JPSS includes satellites and sensors supporting next generation civil weather and climate measurements. NASA also awarded Boulder-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation a $248 million contract to design, build, and test the JPSS-1 spacecraft and an $82 million contract for the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) to fly aboard JPSS-1, scheduled to launch in 2017. Ball was also awarded a sole source contract by NASA to build the OMPS instrument for JPSS-2.
The U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded Raytheon, located in Aurora, a $1.6 billion contract 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. OCX will be delivered in increments. OCX Block 1 will introduce the full capabilities of the L2C navigation signal and is scheduled to enter into service in 2018.
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 and Delta 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 100 consecutive, successful missions to space and has 15 launches on its manifest for 2016. ULA is designing its next-generation launch rocket, Vulcan. Beginning in 2019, the new launch system will replace both the Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles. Vulcan will feature an American-made, reusable main engine and a redesigned second stage.