Space + Aerospace

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.

100+

companies

$1B+

in defense contracts since 2010

3700

regional jobs

Recent Highlights

Vandenberg caps busy year with SpaceX launch

Gearing up for even more launch activity this year, Vandenberg hosted 19 launches in 2022, including a baker’s dozen from SpaceX and Firefly’s maiden launch.

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Paso Robles pursuing horizontal-launch spaceport designation

Cal Poly, which already uses the airport for experimental launches, is partnering in the federal application and development of nearby tech corridor.

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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.

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Central Coast space industry expands orbit

Legacies, newcomers and skyrocketing national and commercial interest are coming together to launch the region’s space ecosystem to new heights.

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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.

Woman holding a CubeSat

CubeSat Laboratory

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.

The door to the Launch Pad incubator

Aerospace incubator

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 Prove lab solar powered vehicle

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.

Field testing a drone at Camp Roberts

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.

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