Commercial Space Systems Sector

Commercial space systems is a relatively new industry sector. This sector has been dominated by the federal government and its spending since the 1960’s but with NASA retiring the shuttle fleet in 2011, the market was opened to the commercial sector to compete for the production of launch vehicles. While the US Government remains the largest customer, commercial space systems remain fully integrated with and a crucial element of the U.S. military power projection, but more companies are entering the space systems arena.


The federal government’s move out of the launch vehicle arena has actually strengthened the competitive stance of the U.S. Their increasing dependence on commercial systems to augment NASA’s space programs and launch capabilities has the potential to foster numerous new opportunities for the private sector.


The heaviest concentration of commercial space system companies in the United States are located in California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia.   California has 4 of the 13 launch facilities in the United States which are located at:


  • Vandenberg AFB
  • Edwards AFB
  • The California Spaceport
  • Mojave Air and Spaceport


Florida has 3 launch facilities, Virginia and New Mexico each have one, and the final one is in Kodiak, Alaska.


A.T. Kearney’s recent California Space Industry Economic Impact study reports:


  • California’s space industry amounts to $45 billion and accounts for 40% of the U.S. market
  • The industry has 63,000 direct employees and creates a total of 290,000 jobs across all industries throughout the state
  • California firms lead the nation in space-related activities
  • The California firm SpaceX is taking the lead in the privatization of space
  • The two major commercial space systems opportunities for California are:
    • Satellite manufacturing
    • Orbital launch vehicle manufacturing


Space companies like to cluster around similar companies, support industries and existing governmental space support installations. California is the home of companies that form the supply chain for several space systems OEMs as well as four launch facilities. This strong space ecosystem positions the state to capitalize on the future innovations in the industry and to continue to lead the nation in commercial space activities.


The Mid-California International Trade District @ Castle in Merced County offers companies:


  • A strategic location —- A central location to both launch facilities and the manufacturing and customer base in the space industry make it uniquely positioned as a location for companies that manufacture commercial space systems and support equipment
  • A competitive location —- A lower cost of doing business as well as a lower cost of living compared to the coastal areas of California offers companies a strong competitive advantage
  • A entrepreneurial environment —- A strong intellectual capital and entrepreneurial environment created by the presence of the University of California at Merced (University of California’s newest R&D campus) and Merced College