The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group in Sterling Heights, today announced it selected a site in Chippewa County in the Upper Peninsula for the Michigan Launch Initiative’s command and control center.
The site at the Chippewa County International Airport, the former Kincheloe Air Force Base, was chosen as the third and final location for the Michigan Launch Initiative, a public-private partnership organized by MAMA that is expected to bring an estimated 40,000 new jobs and economic opportunity to the state.
Last year, MAMA announced sites for horizontal space launches in Oscoda, south of Alpena along Lake Huron (where rockets will be launched from airplanes), and a vertical launch site in Marquette, on the shores of Lake Superior in the U.P. (where rockets will be launched in the traditional fashion).
The new command and control center in Chippewa County, located roughly halfway between Oscoda and Marquette, will support both launch sites and provide classified and unclassified capabilities for the Department of Defense and commercial space organizations.
It will manage satellite operations once rockets carrying small and mid-sized satellites are launched from the horizontal and vertical launch sites into low Earth orbit, or LEO, which is about 1,200 miles above the Earth. It also will manage research and development for high-speed suborbital flights.
“This large and contiguous site in Chippewa has existing facilities that can easily be converted to support the command and control center’s mission,” says Gavin Brown, executive director of MAMA. “It also has early radar line of sight tracking for the horizontal and vertical launch sites to support our Michigan Launch Initiative. The Chippewa community’s strong partnerships within the aerospace industry and its established aerospace labor market will allow for immediate support for the center.
“Upon future determination, a military aspect will be key in the MLI, enabling us to interface with the Department of Defense on projects that utilize satellites and other space assets. Michigan’s new launch sites and our evolving space ecosystem will help position our state to be a true leader.”
MAMA now will work with community, local, and state partners on environmental permitting, site design and construction.
“We are extremely pleased with and excited about the selection of Chippewa County for the command-and-control center location,” says Chris Olson, president of Chippewa County Economic Development. “Chippewa’s proposal provides an ideal balance of industry expertise, local know-how, and national security space proficiency necessary for the successful implementation of a premier command and control center.”
The DOD plans to add 17,000 LEO satellites over the next decade, an increase over the 1,200 satellites currently there. Michigan’s new launch sites will help meet this demand while providing a multibillion-dollar impact on the state’s economy.
The MLI is working to obtain licensing 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 by early 2025.
“These are exciting times in the space industry,” Brown says. “The space domain is critical to both our national security and economic viability. Space is a significant growth area for both the DOD and commercial sectors for the foreseeable future. We are honored to be leading this effort.”
Chippewa was among four communities across the state considered for the command-and-control center. Site selection, co-led by spaceport consultants BRPH and Kimley-Horn, was based on many factors, including community support, constructability, existing communication infrastructure, and established workforce.