Regional Space industry lifts off

Space is back in the national spotlight with Sunday’s SpaceX/NASA launch of four astronauts — including Cal Poly alum Victor Glover — to the International Space Station, itself celebrating its 20th birthday earlier this month.

Notable developments are taking place closer to home as well.

A San Luis Obispo company is among 17 selected to partner with NASA on advancing industry-developed technologies to market. With investment and support from NASA, Stellar Exploration Inc. will test a high-performance nanosatellite propulsion system. The selection puts Stellar Exploration in good company: other partner outfits include Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman (Orbital Sciences), Rocket Lab and Space X.

→ The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft is set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base atop another SpaceX Falcon 9 on Saturday. A historic U.S.-European collaboration, Sentinel-6 will play a central role in efforts to track sea level rise caused by climate change, as well as enhance coastal management and weather forecasting.

→ Last month’s Cal Poly Space & Cybersecurity Symposium tackled technological, workforce and related challenges with a slate of industry, government and military experts. Among the panelists was Roland Coehlo, CEO of Maverick Space Systems, another San Luis Obispo-based space company with NASA contracts.

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing Commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base, addressed protecting the nation’s space launch capabilities, highlighting the public-private collaboration to establish a thriving spaceport at the base and hailing the importance of partnering with industry. “Industry can drive the innovation, change and opportunities for the future of space,” Mastalir said.

→ Combined Force Space Component Command Maj. Gen. John Shaw recently visited Cal Poly, the first academic institution to enter a cooperative research and development agreement with U.S. Space Operations Command. “We’re leveraging the close proximity of Vandenberg to the university campus, as well as our collective resources and technical expertise, to further partnership and teamwork in space operations,” Shaw said.