State Fight: Space sector is humming in Huntsville, Alabama

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Rocket city doesn’t intend to give up its title.

“Huntsville will continue to be a really important place for space in many regards, obviously on the propulsion and launch vehicles side of the house,” said Mike Ward, Huntsville Chamber of Commerce senior vice president for government and public affairs.

Huntsville is home to a Blue Origin engine production facility, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s rocket propulsion manufacturing facility and Dynetics work on NASA, U.S. military and commercial space programs. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Space Launch System and coordinates International Space Station experiments from Huntsville. Local employees also develop space station environmental support systems, manufacture space modules and perform space-based research.

“All of those things make Huntsville relevant today and relevant tomorrow,” Ward said.

In nearby Decatur, Alabama, United Launch Alliance manufactures Atlas, Delta and Vulcan Centaur rockets. Also nearby is U.S. Army missile development and testing at Redstone Arsenal.

To keep its space sector humming, the state of Alabama promotes aerospace engineering at University of Alabama campuses, Auburn University and Tuskegee University. Calhoun Community College offers instruction in the high-end skills communities need to attract aerospace employers like welding, 3D printing and computer numerical control machining, ensuring “the pipeline of labor development is robust,” Ward said.

The state, meanwhile, is making “investments on all fronts to support the industry, from education and workforce development programs to needed infrastructure and creating a business environment that allows companies to succeed here,” said Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. “It is an absolute priority for Alabama, all the way to the highest levels in our state.”

That’s partly due to the economic contribution of the space sector. The historic achievements of Alabama’s space sector also are “a real source of pride” for the state, Sewell said.

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

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