CU-Boulder Aerospace Summit

Hyatt Regency, Denver

March 29, 2016

It’s great to see all of you. Thank you for coming.

I’d like to thank Major-Gen. Jay Lindell for his leadership as the Aerospace and Defense Industry Champion in the state's Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Thank you Jay. It’s always great to have you with us.

When CU was founded the same year as Colorado statehood in 1876, I’m sure our pioneering forefathers envisioned a long partnership between the university and the state. But I doubt they could have imagined what you will hear tonight.

At the University of Colorado, we are proud of our space legacy in Colorado, now spanning 60 years. It started in 1956, when our rocket technology was spun off to form Ball Brothers Research Corporation. That was two years before NASA was born.

Now we are NASA’s top-funded public university; we are home to top-ten ranked programs in aerospace engineering and physics, among others; and we remain a national leader in educating astronauts, scientists, and engineers. I am proud that CU-Boulder is the only university to send instruments to every planet in the solar system and Pluto.

We have carried that legacy forward. Today, CU is proud to be an engine  in Colorado’s growing aerospace industry, creating new technology innovations, developing a highly skilled workforce, and collaborating with industry and government partners to fuel economic development.

One recent example of economic development and industry collaboration is the Mars’ explorer MAVEN, which you will hear more about in a few minutes from Dr. Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s principal investigator.

MAVEN launched in November 2013 and arrived in Mars’ orbit in September 2014.

  • It was conceived at CU
  • Funded by NASA
  • Built by Lockheed Martin
  • Launched by ULA
  • With communications by Exelis (before merging with Harris last year)
  • CU is conducting the science on MAVEN.

Of the $671 million funded by NASA, nearly half was returned to the Colorado economy. This is but one example of how we can work together as a state for the benefit of Colorado and its citizens. Imagine the potential for future projects.

We also take pride in our history of workforce development in the aerospace industry.

  • About 120 students work at our Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in all areas of space exploration — science, engineering, and operations.
  • On any given day you can find undergraduate and graduate students guiding satellites, collecting data from space missions, and designing space instruments.
  • This equips our graduates with uncommon experience to work in the aerospace industry.
  • Nine years ago students designed and built a dust counter instrument, to document the origins of the universe, carried on New Horizons. It was the first student-built instrument on a NASA planetary mission.
  • Last summer’s New Horizons flyby of Pluto, 3 billion miles away, gave us humankind’s best portrait yet of Pluto. Today’s students are collecting and analyzing the New Horizons data. Yesterday’s students are today’s industry leaders.

In a moment we’ll hear from students on a panel moderated by Penny Axelrad, chair of our Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department. Learning for these students at CU extends far beyond the lecture halls and classrooms – they are working on the cutting edge of science and technology –  designing, building, and using small satellites and drones to explore and better understand Earth and the environment.

In tonight’s keynote, Distinguished Professor Daniel Baker will tell us about the dramatic impact of space weather on our planet.

So, what does the future hold in the aerospace industry? Success in space has profoundly transformed the human experience in all its dimensions – how we communicate, get our news, find our way, and individually engage in local, regional and global commerce.

Our world is facing significant issues with a changing environment, increasing populations and limited resources. The intersection of people, resources, and our planet is where CU-Boulder can use its expertise in airborne and space-based observations to address some of our world’s most pressing problems.

This is OUR Grand Challenge – there is no state in the nation more capable than Colorado to take it on.  Working with our industry, national laboratory, and government partners, CU is proud to be charting this course towards the future in space.

We have an inspiring program tonight. Thank you for joining us.