UP airport chosen as command center for Michigan rocket launch sites
STERLING HEIGHTS, MI – The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association announced Thursday that Chippewa County will be home to its new command and control center.
This is the third major announcement in the past 14 months from the organization, which oversees Michigan’s aerospace and defense manufacturing community within the global industry.
MAMA has announced plans for a horizontal launch site at Oscoda-Wurthsmith Airport in February 2020 and a vertical launch site in Marquette in July 2020.
Chippewa County Airport, located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was one of four locations in the state considered for the command and control center, along with KI Sawyer Airport in the UP and locations at Traverse City and Dowagiac.
Site selection – co-led by spaceport consultants BRPH and Kimley-Horn – was based on many factors, including community support, constructability, existing communications infrastructure and established workforce and the aerospace industry.
This is the third and final site of the Michigan Launch Initiative, a public-private partnership organized by MAMA that is expected to create an estimated 40,000 new jobs and aims to solidify the state’s place as a leading commercial aerospace destination.
Funding is mainly provided by private commercial entities, MAMA executive director Gavin Brown said at a press conference on Thursday. The Michigan legislature has allocated $ 2 million to assess the feasibility of developing one or more low-orbit launch sites in the state in June 2019.
“This will be roughly an investment of several hundred million dollars in the state of Michigan and its assets,” Brown said.
The command and control center will support both launch sites and provide classified and unclassified capabilities to the Department of Defense and other interested commercial space organizations.
It will manage satellite operations once rockets carrying small and medium-sized satellites are launched from the horizontal and vertical launch sites in low Earth orbit, about 1,200 miles above Earth. He will also manage research and development for high speed suborbital flights.
DOD plans to launch 17,000 LEO satellites over the next decade, according to a press release, and MAMA believes Michigan’s new launch sites will help meet that demand.
MAMA says northern Michigan – north of the 45th parallel of Earth – is perfectly located for polar orbit launches and has ideal infrastructure for logistics and technical support. The Chippewa County location is strategically located between the two launch sites at Oscoda and Marquette.
“This large contiguous Chippewa site has existing facilities that can easily be converted to support the mission of the command and control center,” said Mr. Brown. “It also has early line-of-sight radar tracking for horizontal and vertical launch sites to support our launch initiative in Michigan. The strong partnerships of the Chippewa community within the aerospace industry and its established aerospace job market will provide immediate support for the center.
“When determining future, a military aspect will be essential in the IMM, allowing us to interact with the Department of Defense on projects that use satellites and other space assets. Michigan’s new launch sites and our evolving space ecosystem will help position our state as a true leader. We are delighted to welcome Chippewa to the MLI team. “
MAMA will now focus on working with community, local and state partners on environmental permits, site design and construction. Brown said Thursday that resolving environmental issues, particularly with the Marquette site, was an area of focus.
Environmental studies on the sites, which are part of the authorization process, have not yet been carried out. Brown said LAMA will begin initiating studies at Oscoda in “the next two months,” but it will likely be more than a year before that happens at the Marquette site.
The results of the studies will be made available to the public, Mr Brown said.
“We are extremely pleased and excited with the selection of Chippewa County for the location of the command and control center,” said Chris Olson, President of Economic Development for Chippewa County.
“Chippewa’s proposal strikes an ideal balance between industry expertise, local know-how and mastery of the national security space necessary for the successful implementation of a command and control center of first order. “
MLI is working to obtain license approvals for the Oscoda horizontal launch site and the Marquette vertical launch site. Operations are expected to begin at the horizontal space launch site in late 2023 or early 2024 and at the vertical space launch site in early 2025.
“These are exciting times in the space industry,” said Brown. “The space domain is essential to both our national security and our economic viability. Space is an important area of growth for the DOD and commercial sectors for the foreseeable future. We are honored to lead this effort. “