COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The astronauts who will pilot the SpaceX rocket that is expected to launch Saturday will get some help navigating their course from the men and women serving in the US Space Force. Members of the 21st Space Wing, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, will make sure the spacecraft has a clear launch path and can stay in orbit safely.
"They make sure that nothing else in orbit, including some of that space junk out there, they make sure that none of that is going to come in contact with the astronaut," explained Reggie Ash, the Chief Defense Development Officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.
Ash served as the Commander of the 21st Mission Support Group before retiring from the military in late 2016. He says Colorado is at the epicenter for national security in space. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense named Peterson Air Force Base as the provision headquarters for US Space Command.
"Those offices are responsible for overseeing national security launch operations, and that includes the launch of astronauts," Ash said.
Besides being home to the military's top leaders in space, Colorado has a very large workforce in the aerospace sector thanks to strong engineering programs at our colleges and universities.
"CU Boulder receives more NASA research funding than any other public university, and the entire CU system, including UCCS of course, has got a number of aerospace disciplines," Ash said. "They're such a critical factor to making Colorado the number one state in the nation in terms of per-capita aerospace employees."
As the home to the annual Space Symposium, Colorado Springs also regularly hosts hundreds of space professionals from around the world to display their latest technology and hear from high-level speakers. That event usually occurs in April but had to be delayed this year as large public gatherings were prohibited in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The symposium is now scheduled to take place from October 31 to November 2 at the Broadmoor.