The space systems manufacturing and operations core is represented by satellite and space vehicle manufacturing, launch vehicle manufacturing and operations, and network ground equipment. Across the state, space systems manufacturing and operations has fallen behind supply and support as well as the leading satellite-based services component.
The shift in customer base away from big government to the smaller consumer is bringing another change. Small consumers of satellite-based services expect a responsive business module focused on product reliability and competitive, fixed prices, according to Brookings.
At the same time, the state’s space industry is facing wider domestic issues of a looming skills gap as an aging workforce nears retirement in the next five years, along with pressure to innovate to sustain competitiveness.
If it is to respond effectively, Colorado’s space industry must pivot toward new domestic and global commercial markets by fostering collaborations among its companies and with its research institutions, breaking down institutional barriers where necessary to spur innovation, Brookings says.
The strategy should encourage closer ties between the industry and venture capitalists, while developing a technically competent and flexible workforce, according to the report.
Changes along those lines seemed evident as January came to a close with the merging of DigitalGlobe Inc., of Longmont, Colo., and GeoEye, Inc., of Boulder, providers of Earth imagery and geospatial analysis. Also, Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) of Sparks, Nev., turned to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., of Littleton, Colo., to human rate SNC’s entrant in NASA’s financially constrained commercial crew transportation initiative.
Though tailored to Colorado’s unusual space diversity, the Brookings’ assessments and recommendations are likely to find resonance among the state’s rivals in the national arena: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia.
“This is a national issue, clearly,” said study participant Michael Parks in a Feb. 1 phone interview. Parks is a consultant with McKinsey & Co., global management consultants. “The urgency is just as true for California, Alabama, Florida, Texas and so on,” he said.