WESTMINSTER, Colo (CBS4) – A small space company in Westminster is about to play a big role in NASA’s return to the moon. Advanced Space will soon launch a small spacecraft dubbed CAPSTONE.
That stands for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment. The CEO of the company, Bradley Cheetham, explained the spacecraft will help NASA learn more about navigating around and on the moon.
The NASA Deputy Administrator, Pam Melroy, visited the company along with Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter and California Representative Jerry McNerney who is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
It comes as Advanced Space prepares to launch CAPSTONE later this month. Melroy called that launch an important step in the Artemis Mission to get back to the moon which is a step to get to Mars.
She pointed out the importance of the role the private space industry plays in NASA’s space mission.
“It is now not just NASA that is the pride of America as the pinnacle of what we can do in space. Our commercial space industry is the envy of the rest of the world,” Melroy said.
Melroy said in 2019 NASA did its first economic survey of the space industry. That survey found it was a $4.6 billion industry with 22,000 high-paying jobs.
This coming launch has the scientists and founds of Advanced Space excited about reaching the goals of their founders.
“We are very much a purpose-driven company. So when we started up the company over 11 years ago our goal was to enable the sustainable exploration, development and settlement of space,” Cheetham said.
“We didn’t at the time have a lot of money like Elon and Jeff Bezos did, so instead of building rockets, we built orbits. We could afford to build orbits on a grad student’s salary. For us seeing this mission fly, demonstrating those orbit operations is really just the beginning of what we see as many futures missions that we’ll be able to support for NASA and other customers.”
Advanced Space is not the only Colorado company that will help with the return to the moon. A number of other companies also have contracts to provide materials for the flight and for the surface of the moon as well.
And it’s possible astronaut Jessica Watkins, who calls Lafayette home, could be part of that mission to the Moon. She just became the first African-American woman to be sent to the International Space Station for a long-term assignment.
But even before that crew is picked, the plan is for NASA to work with companies like Advanced Space to lay the groundwork by getting equipment on the lunar surface and gather information about the moon and orbiting around the moon with spacecraft like CAPSTONE.
“We are not just exploring. We’re also placing a foothold in space for permanent human presence beyond Earth,” Melroy said.