Anchored by the nation’s West Coast rocket launch range and a rich air and space legacy, the Central Coast is a prime launchpad for the new commercial space race and air-mobility innovation.
Vandenberg Space Force Base — the nation’s western launch range since 1957 and fast-growing commercial launch site — sits in the center of the region, with vendors, contractors and commercial partners spread throughout the Central Coast and a new commercial tech park in the works.
Two nearby universities — Cal Poly and University of California-Santa Barbara — fuel innovation and develop a steady stream of talent (including astronauts!) and start-ups. UCSB, with a leading science program, has $17 million in active NASA-sponsored research projects. Cal Poly, with a top aerospace engineering program, co-developed the CubeSat mini-satellite standard now used worldwide and supports NASA moon and Mars missions.
And homegrown space companies hold an impressive number of NASA contracts, including Next Intent’s work on every Mars Rover for the last two decades, Stellar Exploration’s thrusters powering a moon mission, Maverick Space Systems’ satellite launch systems, and Umbra’s ultra high resolution imagery microsatellites.
This rich ecosystem is fueling the future of air mobility, from high-power sensing equipment and lightweight components to electric air taxis and next-gen drones.
in defense contracts since 2010
Interactive space + aerospace tour
Explore the regional assets launching the new commercial space race into orbit.…
Space master plan driving progress
Regional collaboration is maximizing opportunity for public and private investment at and around VSFB.…
FastCo: The place for space
The commercial space industry is turning its focus to Vandenberg Space Force Base and revitalizing the region.…
Paso spaceport planning
Paso Robles + Cal Poly are pursuing horizontal-launch spaceport designation alongside a developing tech corridor.…
SpaceX adds 2nd launch site at Vandenberg
SpaceX is expanding operations at Vandenberg following a period of extraordinary growth fueled by commercial launch demand and the deployment of its Starlink internet mega-constellation.
Santa Barbara’s Umbra puts itself on the map with high-resolution images
Umbra’s small satellites deliver the highest resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery commercially available from orbit, according to the company.
SLO-based ESAero develops all-electric X-57 Maxwell for NASA
The experimental aircraft is a major step in revolutionizing aviation by making flight cleaner, quieter, and more sustainable.
“We have a very exciting future on the Central Coast. We’re here to stay.”
“There’s a lot of deep expertise [at Vandenberg] in how to have robust government and commercial operations.”
“We’ve got great partners in the area … that includes UCSB and Cal Poly SLO, and we believe that there’s a strong talent pool in Southern California.”
“This is a wonderful place to live, and easy to recruit top talent to move to this area. There’s already a really good workforce for remote sensing instrument development here in the area, plus a pretty good funding and VC environment to enable startups.”
“Space is the final frontier for the Central Coast economy, and Vandenberg is playing a key role.”
“None of our companies would exist in the way that we do but for the talent pool. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve committed so significantly to growing in California, that immense amount of talent.”
“Vandenberg Space Force Base and the Central Coast can play a critical role in America’s commercial space ventures.”
ASSETS + RESOURCES
Vandenberg Space Force Base
VSFB, which marked its 2000th launch in 2021, is expanding its private-sector partnerships and operations, with a new master plan, a commercial tech park in the works and a federal initiative to create the Range of the Future.
Continuing Cal Poly’s legacy in developing the CubeSat standard, the independent CubeSat Lab has supported 175+ missions, developed and launched 12 CubeSats in house, and conducted $25+ million in sponsored projects.
Cal Poly’s successful HotHouse incubator has debuted the Launch Pad, an aerospace-focused offshoot in Grover Beach, offering a range of services to support and scale space and aeronautics startups. The location will also house an SBDC outreach center.
Cal Poly and UC-Santa Barbara
With world-ranked programs in engineering, aerospace and computer science, robust industry partnerships, and specialized equipment labs, the two universities offer a pipeline of sought-after talent, resources and innovation to fuel the industry.
Aviation technical training program
Cuesta College, in partnership with ACI Jet (recently awarded Airport Business Project of the Year), has launched an aviation maintenance technical training program to meet the rapidly rising aviation workforce demand.
NPS JIFX field lab
Camp Roberts hosts the Naval Postgraduate School’s Joint Interagency Field Experimentation program, where industry, academia and military collaborate on testing and demonstrating new technologies including autonomous drones, geospatial intelligence and cybersecurity.
Space + Aerospace Companies
Click the dots to see companies in the region, and find detailed company, industry and regional data in our data center.