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.

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.

RECENT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Two space launch companies — Relativity and Astra — were awarded large state tax credits for plans to invest a combined $400 million and create a total of 1,700 jobs at Vandenberg and other locations
  • Cal Poly, along with its sister campus in Pomona, received $10 million to establish new laboratories to test subsonic vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technologies in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Goleta-based Deployable Space Systems, whose rollout solar arrays were used by NASA to upgrade the International Space Station, was acquired by the emerging space infrastructure portfolio company Redwire
  • The Paso Robles airport, already used by Cal Poly for experimental launches, is pursuing FAA designation as a horizontal launch spaceport to meet growing demand to get small satellites in low-Earth orbit
  • Santa Barbara-based Umbra secured a $950 million federal contract to further develop the ultra high-resolution radar imagery capabilities of its microsatellites. It also drew $32 million in equity investment
  • 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 thrusters powering a moon mission, Maverick Space Systems‘ satellite launch systems and ES Aero‘s development of the X-57 Maxwell electric plane

100+

companies

$1B+

in defense contracts to regional companies since 2010

$80K

average annual wages

3700

regional jobs

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.

CubeSat logo

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.

Exterior of the Grover Beach coworking space and aerospace 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

With top-ranked programs in engineering, aerospace and computer science, robust industry partnerships, the Prototype Vehicles Lab and other specialized equipment labs, the state university offers a pipeline of sought-after talent, resources and innovation to fuel the industry.

UC-Santa Barbara

UCSB’s leading engineering and science programs hold $17 million in active NASA-sponsored research projects. With specialties in astronomy, planetary science and astrophysics, it’s also home to the Experimental Cosmology Group, which researches topics such as interstellar travel.

Aviation technical training program

Cuesta College, in partnership with ACI Jet (recently awarded Airport Business Project of the Year), is developing an aviation maintenance technical training program to meet the rapidly rising aviation workforce demand.

Field testing a drone at Camp Roberts

NPS field lab

Camp Roberts, on the northern edge of San Luis Obispo County, hosts the Naval Postgraduate School’s Joint Interagency Field Experimentation program (JIFX), where industry, academia and military collaborate on testing and demonstrating new technologies including autonomous drones, geospatial intelligence and cybersecurity.

collage of aerospace images

Uplift Central Coast

Uplift Central Coast, a new 6-county coalition stretching from Santa Cruz to Ventura, is working to further cultivate a space + aeronautics ecosystem through workforce, infrastructure and innovation initiatives to help companies grow and create the jobs of the future.

Paso Spaceport

The effort to establish a horizontal launch spaceport and surrounding tech corridor at the Paso Robles airport is advancing. REACH strongly supports the effort, both as a forward-looking way to diversify the city’s economy and job base and as a complement to the regional commercial space industry.

Aerospace + Defense Companies

Explore the map to learn about the Defense, Aerospace and Transportation Manufacturing companies in the region.