Launching To Success: Aerospace & Defense Locations

Locations are attracting aerospace & defense companies with highly educated workers, advanced manufacturing capabilities, and supply chain networks.

By Nora Caley
From the January / February 2023 Issue

The state of the aerospace and defense industry is strong, and continues to grow. That’s according to Facts and Figures, a report from The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) in collaboration with IHS Markit. The report provides a snapshot of the aerospace and defense industry’s workforce, wages, sales, and trade numbers.

According to the report, the aerospace and defense industry is continuing to recover from the pandemic. A return to air travel and a continuation of the need for national defense are driving the growth of the industry, and at the center of this growth is its workforce. The report noted that in 2021 the aerospace and defense workforce totaled more than 2.1 million. That reflects an increase of approximately 6,000 employees in 2021, a 0.3% increase from 2020.

These are highly skilled jobs with an average salary of over $106,000, about 40% above the national average. The majority of the industry’s direct employment is in the commercial aerospace sector, with a 57% share, while defense and national security make up 43%.

The aerospace and defense workforce totaled more than 2.1 million in 2021, an increase of approximately 6,000 employees over 2020.

Jobs supported by the industry represent approximately 1.4% of the nation’s total employment base, a share that has held steady since prior to the pandemic. More than 57% of employment comes from the shared aerospace and defense supply chain, an extensive network of suppliers that consists of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses.

The report noted that the industry has employees in every state in the U.S. Some locations are especially well-suited for these businesses, based on factors such as educated workforce, high-quality commercial real estate, and distance to other important locations. Here are some regions that are attracting businesses focused on aerospace and defense.

Alabama: The Industry Accelerates With New Growth Projects

On November 16, 2022, NASA’s next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System, roared into the night sky at Kennedy Space Center on its inaugural mission. The SLS didn’t carry American astronauts, but it did pack plenty of Alabama DNA.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville spearheaded design and development of the space agency’s most powerful rocket, which will ultimately transport an astronaut crew back to the moon—and beyond.

In addition, Boeing’s Alabama workforce played a key role in the SLS program and the Artemis I mission. Altogether, NASA said 106 companies in Alabama made contributions to its SLS and Orion space capsule projects.

aerospace & defense locations
Airbus is adding a third Final Assembly Line to increase production of A320 Family aircraft at its Alabama manufacturing center in Mobile. (Photo: Airbus)

For that reason, the SLS’s launch was amazing—but hardly surprising to Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, who was on hand at Kennedy to watch the moment.

“The Artemis I launch is another milestone in the impressive history of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,” Canfield said. “From the pioneering development of the Saturn V rocket over a half century ago to designing and developing the new SLS that will take Artemis back to the moon, thousands of Alabama space workers can take great pride in contributing to this incredible accomplishment.”

But there’s a lot more going on in Alabama’s aerospace/defense industry, which counts more than 300 companies from 30 different countries, operating in just about every segment of the industry. Here are some recent developments:

Airbus, which has built passenger jets in Alabama since 2015, is now adding a third assembly line to increase A320 Family aircraft production at its Mobile manufacturing center, creating 1,000 jobs. Investment in the project exceeds $800 million.

Lockheed Martin is investing $16.5 million to open a new facility focusing on missile defense on its campus in Huntsville, another milestone marking the defense contractor’s growing footprint in Alabama. The 25,000-square-foot Missile System Integration Lab facility will initially be used exclusively for development in Lockheed Martin’s Next Generation Interceptor program.

Switzerland-based Beyond Gravity is adding a new production facility in Decatur—and 200 workers—to manufacture payload fairings for the United Launch Alliance’s Alabama-built Vulcan rocket. ULA is also expanding its presence there to increase rocket output to provide launch services for Amazon’s Kuiper satellites. New investment at the site is $300 million.

These new growth projects in Alabama’s aerospace/defense sector build on others launched in 2021, which involved new investment topping $220 million and the creation of almost 700 jobs.

A key area for growth is hypersonics, or ultra-fast weapons systems. Lockheed Martin has based its flagship center for the development of hypersonic technology in North Alabama, and it has opened a “digital first” factory there that pulls together all the best advanced production processes from across the company.

In Birmingham, AL, California-based Kratos is expanding its advanced concepts engineering center that focuses on hypersonics with an $8.6 million investment that will create 76 high-paying jobs.

With these developments, and more, it’s clear the future of aerospace is reaching new altitudes in Alabama.

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Arkansas: Helping The Industry Succeed

The aerospace and defense industry is thriving in Arkansas. Located in the middle of the United States, Arkansas provides a strategic location, along with a business-friendly environment and competitive tax rates, for aerospace and defense companies, allowing them to succeed and grow.

Arkansas’ aerospace and defense sector is steadily growing, and in recent years, multiple project wins have been announced that have accelerated the industry’s advancement in the state.

aerospace & defense locations
Dassault Falcon Jet’s facility in Little Rock, AR (Photo: Arkansas Economic Development Commission)

Lockheed Martin expanded its operations in Camden in October 2022, opening a new 85,000-square-foot All-Up Round III facility that will enable the company to increase production of its PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement—the world’s most advanced air defense missile. Earlier in 2022, Lockheed Martin and Airbus announced plans for Airbus to manufacture the aerial refueling boom for the LMXT strategic tanker aircraft in western Arkansas.

Aerospace and defense companies that move to or expand in Arkansas benefit from a wide range of resources, including an established industry base, available facilities, and a talented workforce.

Arkansas is home to one of the fastest-growing aerospace and defense corridors in the nation: the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden. Located in south Arkansas, Highland Industrial Park is an 18,780-acre industrial park with more than 5.4 million square feet of industrial and warehouse facilities. Specialized in aerospace and defense, the industrial park is home to top companies, including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Esterline Defense Group, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, as well as many suppliers.

Aerospace and defense companies are supported by a robust military presence in Arkansas. There are five military installations across the state: Little Rock Air Force Base, Pine Bluff Arsenal (Pine Bluff), Camp Robinson and Camp Pike (North Little Rock), Ebbing Air National Guard Base (Fort Smith), and Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center (Fort Smith). The U.S. military has a $4.5 billion annual economic impact, providing 67,000 direct and indirect jobs in Arkansas. Service members at the state’s installations transition into the workforce across the state as valued members of the industry’s workforce.

In addition, top-tier educational institutions throughout Arkansas are helping prepare the workforce that aerospace and defense companies need to succeed. There are more than 40 educational institutions of higher education, including four-year research universities and colleges, and two-year colleges and vocational schools, in Arkansas. Students can receive degrees and certifications in a wide range of aerospace and defense-related fields, including aviation airframe maintenance, general aviation maintenance, cybersecurity, engineering and more, at 15 four-year universities and 22 two-year colleges in Arkansas.

Arkansas provides the resources companies need, and the state wants businesses to succeed. The state collaborates with companies, ensuring that the regulatory environment does not restrict project timelines. Arkansas has also consistently lowered taxes over the past decade, making the state more competitive for companies.

With its established industry presence, competitive taxes, strong workforce development, low cost of doing business and a talented labor pool, Arkansas can serve as a launching pad for success for aerospace and defense companies.

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Black Diamond Realty: High Technology Park In West Virginia

Brokered by Black Diamond Realty and located within the I-79 Technology Park in Fairmont, West Virginia, 5000 NASA Blvd and 1000 Technology Drive are multi-suite, multi-story office buildings available for sale or lease. The High Technology Park is located within the heart of the I-79 High Technology Corridor just south of Fairmont, WV. The location of the I-79 Technology Park places it within one day’s drive of 60% of the U.S. population and some of the nation’s largest cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis.

The geographical location of this Technology Park is only one component that makes it a prime operational site. Infrastructure enhancements have taken this Park to truly world-class levels. In 2011 and 2012 the park was improved with the expansion of both the electrical and DQE telecommunications systems. The park was expanded to include a gigabit speed communications infrastructure effectively making it a GigaPoP for internet access. In collaboration with MonPower, a brand new state-of-the-art expandable 14-MW electrical substation was constructed to support the power needs of the Park.

Black Diamond Realty has two multi-suite, multi-story office buildings available for sale or lease in Fairmont, WV. (Photo: Black Diamond Realty)

The I-79 Technology Park is a trusted location for several federal operations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Park is proud to be home to over 30 businesses with approximately 1,000 employees. Some of these businesses include General Dynamics, Electronic Warfare Associates, Inc., First Energy Corp., Leidos, ManTech International Corporation, Spectrum, GST, Healthcare Management Solutions LLC, and the National White Collar Crime Center. The I-79 Technology Park is also HUB Zone Certified.

One of the anchor tenants of the park, the NOAA Environmental Security Computing Center (NESCC) has an ongoing requirement to transmit massive amounts of data and information around the world. In addition to the gigabit speed infrastructure, operations connections were established with the country’s most advanced gigabit network, Internet 2 Network, to help facilitate these collaborations.

1000 Technology Drive offers high security, high end finishes, reception desk attended during office hours, free parking, conference/training room with Wi-Fi, projector, fitness center, group fitness classes, and a large outdoor courtyard. 5000 NASA Blvd offers high security, high end finishes, marquee signage, and ample parking.

Current tenants of these two buildings include NASA, EWA, National White Collar Crime Center, Leidos, EIS, A3L Federal Works, a4 Media & Data Solutions, Agile 5, Athena Sciences Corporation, Edward Jones, Healthcare Management Solutions, Hendall, Keystone, Lakota Software, ManTech, Summit Transportation, Social Security Administration and Homeland Security.

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Volusia County, Florida: Positioned For Continued Growth

Florida’s High-Tech Corridor is aglow with relocations and expansions of leading-edge companies. Volusia County is uniquely positioned for continued growth in aviation, aerospace, and innovation due to geography, proximity, and community assets.

Along Central Florida’s east coast, the Greater Daytona Region is at the crossroads of Interstate 95, connecting to the entire eastern seaboard and Interstate 4, which traverses the Sunshine State, and is the footprint of the Corridor. Volusia County’s proximity to Cape Canaveral and its strategic location on the northern point of the Space Triangle along with being the home to seven institutions of higher learning, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, are foundational to the region’s viability with the aviation and aerospace sector.

aerospace & defense locations
The newly announced Cici & Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology will be an exceptional additional resource at the Embry-Riddle Research Park in Volusia County, Florida. (Photo: Enterprise Florida)

Fueled by public and private investment, Team Volusia EDC (TVEDC) is dedicated to business recruitment and marketing to bring new business to the area. TVEDC partners with economic development stakeholders including the Volusia County Economic Development Division, economic developers in cities and municipalities, the CEO Business Alliance, plus over 85 private company investors, and statewide, with Enterprise Florida and Team Florida.

Important business recruitment successes in the aviation, aerospace, and innovation sector for Team Volusia EDC and Volusia County include two key wins in 2022.

First was the successful U.S. establishment of Brazilian company Ocellott, located in the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex (MicaPlex) in the Embry-Riddle Research Park, Daytona Beach. Specializing in the development and manufacturing of complex systems, Ocellott offers products that serve the defense, aerospace, testing and measurement markets. As Ocellott grows, the newly announced Cici & Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology will be an exceptional additional resource at the Embry-Riddle Research Park. The Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology will build upon the game-changing wins of Embry-Riddle’s five-year-old Research Park by promoting even more innovation, creating high-quality jobs and bolstering Florida’s advanced technology workforce.

Second, TVEDC worked with Onicx Group and Aries Capital to bring much needed speculative manufacturing space to Edgewater, located about 40 miles north of Kennedy Space Center. The Space Coast Industrial Park at Parktowne is a multi-phased project to develop a one million-square-foot Class A warehouse facility, catering to the high demand for industrial facilities in Volusia County, driven especially by the robust growth of the space vehicle launch industry.

Additionally, other recently announced TVEDC aviation and aerospace business development project establishments include Seamax, Arralis, Interface Welding, and Printech Circuit Laboratories.

Looking ahead, TVEDC is excited to team up with Space Florida, in partnership with Florida Defense Support Task Force, Enterprise Florida, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida High Tech Corridor, Florida Institute of Technology, National Center for Simulation, and the University of Central Florida on the campaign to bring STARCOM and Space Delta 13 to Florida.

TVEDC’s recruitment successes in aviation, aerospace, and innovation, along with key industries like manufacturing, and logistics, help drive economic development in Volusia County, setting the scene for interest across all industries attracted by the vibrant and multifaceted business community in the Greater Daytona Region.

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Kentucky: Growing The Aerospace Industry

Kentucky continues to leverage its ideal geographic location, workforce initiatives, speed-to-market programs, and key industries to create a dynamic, growing economy for the future. These factors play a huge role in maintaining Kentucky’s strong aerospace presence, as aerospace-related products and parts are the commonwealth’s top export. Currently, there are 110 aerospace-related facilities throughout the state employing over 23,000 Kentuckians, and since 2020, there have been 15 aerospace-related N&E projects in Kentucky, representing over $143 million in investment and over 520 new jobs.

“Having just concluded the most successful two-year period in state history for announced investment and job creation, there are very few states, if any, that match Kentucky when it comes to economic momentum and prospects for long-term success,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “Our skilled workforce, resources, and location are creating opportunities for key industries to thrive, and that includes our aerospace sector, which continues to grow across the commonwealth. I am excited for the future of this industry in Kentucky.”

Aerospace-related products and parts are the top export for Kentucky. (Photo: Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development)

Kentucky’s recent aerospace growth includes investments from existing companies such as Skilcraft LLC, which is expanding an operation in Northern Kentucky to fabricate components for aerospace customers, and Rajant Corp., a provider of Kinetic Mesh wireless networks for use in some of the world’s harshest environments. It also includes new companies to the commonwealth, like Setco Sales Co., a manufacturer of precision parts and specialty products for the aerospace sector, which is relocating its headquarters to Boone County.

Kentucky’s central geographic location makes it perfect for manufacturing and distribution of aerospace products throughout the United States and around the globe. It also places Kentucky manufacturers within 600 miles (or 1,000 kilometers) of two-thirds of the U.S. population. That centrality enables manufacturers to quickly distribute their products to key markets, while global air cargo hubs operated by UPS, DHL, and Amazon provide fast and reliable distribution overnight to anywhere in the world. Industrial employers also benefit from various reliable, air, road, waterway, and rail shipping options.

This advantageous location and pool of resources directly contribute to Kentucky’s thriving logistics and distribution industries, which announced 42 new location and expansion projects in 2022 totaling $1.66 billion in new investments and the creation of 4,200 full-time positions.

Manufacturing continues to be a driving force behind Kentucky’s economic growth, contributing to over 8,900 of the announced jobs over the past year with $8.27 billion in new investments. Kentucky is home to approximately 5,000 manufacturing facilities that employ around 250,000 residents.

Aiding the state’s recent growth and sustained economic momentum has been the continued investment in site development initiatives. The commonwealth has taken an aggressive approach to the speed-to-market demand, matching companies’ sense of urgency and expediting project timelines in a way many other states cannot. These initiatives include Kentucky’s Build-Ready program and the Kentucky Product Development Initiative (KPDI), which allow companies to quickly locate in the commonwealth while mitigating risks and delays associated with the construction process.

With record-breaking economic momentum, continued investment in some of the state’s most important and fastest-growing industries, and continued focus on speed-to-market initiatives, Kentucky continues to build a foundation for key industries like aerospace to thrive.

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Macon-Bibb County, Georgia: Helping Companies Soar

Macon Bibb County, Georgia is quickly becoming a hotspot for the aerospace industry, due to its prime location, solid infrastructure, and quality of life. Capitalizing on the cardinal rule of real estate, “location, location, location,” Macon-Bibb County is emerging as a key player for a thriving aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) market.

The county is adjacent to two major interstates, ample air and rail infrastructure, proximity to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and a major seaport on the Savannah coast. There is a Defense Logistics Agency and an Air Force Air Logistics Complex at the nearby Robins Air Force Base.

aerospace & defense locations
Dean Baldwin Painting completed construction in Macon-Bibb County, Georgia in 2021. Here, Dean Baldwin presents a newly painted Boeing 767-300 at their groundbreaking celebration. (Photo: The Miner Agency)

The Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority (MBCIA) is dedicated to nurturing and expanding the aerospace industry in Macon-Bibb County and tending to the needs of its existing industry, like Embraer, MHI RJ, and Dean Baldwin Painting.

Embraer, the third largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, settled in Macon in 2018. The Brazilian company’s mission is to use imaginative engineering and technology in the aerospace field, and they found that possible in Macon-Bibb County.

MHI RJ came to Macon-Bibb County in 2022. Their leadership echoed Dean Baldwin’s sentiments about the location and hospitality of Macon-Bibb. “We chose Macon because of the aerospace cluster. Macon is very strategically located between Atlanta, Columbus with their Pratt & Whitney presence, and Savannah with Gulf Stream, creating a nice triangle of aerospace community that we wanted to strategically position ourselves within,” stated Ismail Mokabel, Senior Vice President and Head of Aftermarket.

With the expansion of MRO operations at Macon’s Middle Georgia Regional Airport growing, industries expressed a need for aircraft paint/de-paint capability. Working in tandem with community partners, MBCIA successfully recruited Dean Baldwin Painting to the airport to support those industries and the neighboring Air Force Base. The result: An enhanced supply chain for the MRO network and the first new construction at the airport in more than 30 years.

“Lots of airlines go up and down the East Coast,” said Barbara Baldwin, CEO, CFO, and owner of Dean Baldwin Painting. “After meeting with Macon-Bibb officials about the weather, population, cost of living, and all of the above, we knew that Macon would be the best location for us.”

A runway extension is underway at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport to accommodate the takeoff and landings of larger aircraft. The initiative will increase the current 6,500-foot runway to 7,100 feet, further supporting the expanding MRO footprint in Macon-Bibb. “With a longer runway, this will not only help us retain the industry and jobs we currently have, but it could create more opportunities for us to go out, identify, and recruit additional aerospace companies,” said Stephen Adams, Executive Director of the MBCIA.

The Macon Water Authority (MWA) supports the relocation and expansion of industries with its world-class water and sewage facilities. With a massive reservoir, it holds 5.8 billion gallons of water at full pool making MWA a vital resource to economic development. Macon’s Class 1 fire department—less than 50 departments in the U.S. hold the Class 1 rating—provides a great benefit to industries by lowering insurance costs and providing protection and educational resources.

The culture will seal the deal: as home of musical greats like Otis Redding, Little Richard, The Allman Brothers, and Jason Aldean, Macon’s music scene and trendy downtown is rivaled only by its neighbor Nashville to the north.

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Located among the foothills of southeast Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains, an impressive blend of history, education, and nature converge to produce an extraordinary opportunity, especially for businesses focusing on cybersecurity, technology development, and aviation operations.

Sierra Vista, thanks to adjacent Fort Huachuca, is woven from nearly a century-and-a-half of strategic missions, technical communications, and intelligence operations. With readily available office space and buildable land, this up-and-coming community is ready to meet critical demand for educated, tech-centric professionals.

With a runway long enough to land any aircraft and an educated workforce, Sierra Vista is a national leader in cyber defense and aeronautical technology. (Photo: City of Sierra Vista)

Sierra Vista is home to the University of Arizona’s College of Applied Science and Technology, a world leader in cybersecurity and cyberoperations education. The program is both NSA certified and designated as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.

Located adjacent to nationally-recognized Cochise College, University of Arizona takes a unique offensive and defensive approach to cybersecurity education, offering 360-degree, hands-on training through a forensics lab, a malware sandbox, an Internet of Things lab and CyberApolis, a virtual city with a 3D GUI with network attack map, 15,000 virtual and unique residents, an underground hacker community, an organized crime element, entity and data relational linkages, and activity patterns—all self-expanding facets that reflect real-world situations.

With a successful STEM program feeding into higher education, visionary developers, and a long-standing partnership with one of the U.S. Army’s critical, tech-heavy installations, Sierra Vista is a hive of cybersecurity activity. A visit to this mid-sized southeast Arizona community is marked with stunning scenery and easily accessed outdoor activities, but the technology engines that drives Sierra Vista are leading the nation.

Fort Huachuca’s strategic missions are staffed by thousands of soldiers performing skilled technical tasks. Approximately 700 professionally trained solders transition from Fort Huachuca to the civilian workforce annually, providing a valuable workforce: trained, skilled professionals ready to put their expertise to work in fields such as electronics, engineering, network operations, security, technical interoperability, intelligence and cyber operations. And former military personnel bring added value to the workplace, particularly for businesses seeking candidates for sensitive positions. Here, corporate recruiters can find applicants with clean records, high physical standards, demonstrated ability to follow instruction, and ability to obtain clearances.

The open skies, high altitude and phenomenal flying weather create a superb combination for the Army’s diverse missions as well as private operations. With a 12,000-foot runway, hangar space, and tie-down facilities, the joint-use airport is used by the U.S. Forest Service as a base for both command and control for wildland firefighting aircraft, as well as their fixed-wing and rotary air tankers. Throughout the year, the facility is also used by the U.S. Border Patrol for rotary and unmanned aircraft to defend the nation’s southern border.

Not only a great place to live, Sierra Vista is a Great American Defense Community and has been recognized by the Department of Defense for its contribution to national security, earning a sizable grant that has been utilized to evaluate the municipal side of the airport. The study shines a light on this untapped gem and the adjacent available property, along with the aerospace advantages and proximity to Interstate 10.

“The airport is one of Sierra Vista’s greatest assets,” said Tony Boone, Sierra Vista Economic Development Manager, “particularly when coupled with the airspace, workforce, and DoD partnership. We are currently evaluating the study’s findings and are gearing up to better utilize the airport for private ventures in development and training.”

Currently, top entrepreneurs and experienced defense agencies come from around the globe to Fort Huachuca to test and evaluate their leading-edge technology.

At 4,600 feet, Sierra Vista is located where high desert and high mountains meet, creating a climate and topography that bucks stereotypical Arizona perceptions. Sierra Vista enjoys four seasons and still boasts about 284 sunny days each year. With an average daytime temperature of 77 degrees, outdoor activities are a must—and the nearby Huachuca Mountains and San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area deliver, offering a canvas for hiking, bicycling and wildlife watching. Residents and visitors alike take advantage of Sierra Vista’s year-round climate, enjoying the 30-plus miles of shared use paths and easy access to mountain trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Sierra Vista is just a short drive (head east or west) from Arizona’s two major wine-producing regions, national monuments, and neighboring communities like Tombstone, Bisbee, and bustling Tucson.

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Flagstaff, AZ: A Rich History In Space Exploration

Flagstaff is at the forefront of aeronautics and space exploration once again. Its history is rich, and now it is experiencing a revival in the space industry. Since the late 1800s, Flagstaff has been home to a community of explorers who have been expanding minds beneath the Colorado Plateau’s vaulted heavens with their contagious passion for exploring the unknown. Percival Lowell, a visionary, scientist, and natural provocateur of inquiry, established his observatory on May 28, 1894 with a vision to study Mars. This created opportunities for other curious individuals passionate about exploration. In 1899, the Northern Arizona Teacher Training College opened its doors and soon became Northern Arizona University in 1925. Later, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) began to conduct training operations on local cinder cones as preparation for maneuvering on Mars’ jagged terrain.

Almost 70 years after the college opened and almost 40 years after Northern Arizona University emerged, the United States Geologic Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, AZ was founded in 1963. The original purpose for the USGS campus in Flagstaff was to map the Moon and assist in training the Apollo astronauts. The campus has remained on the forefront of solar system exploration ever since.

This rich history remains fertile ground that has served as a launchpad for a growing number of similarly minded independent businesses such as: ATC, a materials solution company that works with ceramic materials and has had several samples on the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE); HeetShield is a company innovating lightweight, fire-resistant material for space travel and consumer applications; S.D. Miller & Associates is an organization pioneering flexible material for extreme environments; and Katalyst Space Technologies is an R&D company revolutionizing satellite technology through modular satellite augmentation for more resilient and flexible mission architectures.

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Although founded in 2020, Katalyst Space Technologies has a growth trajectory that mirrors the current renaissance of the space industry’s “second space race.” Katalyst began as an idea among a small team of graduates from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Believing in the profound benefits space expansion has provided for people, this group of ERAU alumni knew there was a solution to antiquated modes of satellite development which include long lead times and expensive, single-use technologies which ultimately result in huge investments orbiting in obsolescence.

Ghonhee Lee, CEO and Founder of Katalyst Space Technologies, saw an opportunity to revolutionize the current system. The dynamic startup operating out of Flagstaff, AZ looks to advance innovations with in-space robotics, assembly, and manufacturing while seeking to solve existing problems like congestion and traffic management in space. Katalyst places an emphasis on leveraging modular technology to provide customers with responsiveness, mission flexibility, and sustainability.

The growing team has partnered with the Air Force Research Lab, the United States Space Force, and other commercial organizations to enhance their developments and accelerate impact on resiliency and sustainability in space. With a mission to bridge the gap between traditional space mission architectures and the infrastructure needed for second-generation space robotics, Katalyst wants to shake up how the space industry works, breaking long cycle times, rigid architectures, and inflexibility in mission planning that dominates the space industry. Despite being a relatively young enterprise, Katalyst is living their mission, expanding quickly, and will launch a demonstration mission with mission partners in May 2024.

History does not always dictate the future. Flagstaff bucks that trend and builds off of a long history of education, science, exploration, and innovation. From the late 1800s to the present, the innovations exploding out of Flagstaff continue to improve the lives of all in the region and on the planet. Something about Flagstaff invites innovators to join the explorations and innovations.

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