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Space Industry Dream Team joins forces to bring Space Orbital Management Expertise to Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula

Oakman Aerospace and Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation lead a team of industry experts in proposal to Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association for a Command and Control Center to be developed at Chippewa County International Airport

November 3, 2020

KINROSS, MI – November 3, 2020 An outpouring of community support accompanies the announcement that Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) and Oakman Aerospace, Inc. (OAI) have gathered a team of industry experts to lead Michigan’s race to space. The team responded to Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association’s (MAMA) command and control center (C3) site selection search with overwhelming community support for C3 development at Chippewa County International Airport (CIU). While this site would make Kinross an integral part of MAMA’s Michigan Launch Initiative (MLI), there are still a few locations in the running for MAMA’s consideration. What sets the CIU site apart from the competition is the significant early public and private investment in OAI’s Homestead antenna pathfinder/risk reduction efforts, a strong team composition consisting of nationally and internationally recognized subject matter expert (SME) organizations and individuals, and most importantly, community support through local/regional government entities and academic institutions.  

“The CIU C3 team provides an ideal balance of industry expertise, local know-how, and National Security Space proficiency necessary for the successful implementation of a premier command and control center,” stated Stanley O. Kennedy, Jr., Co-founder, President, and Chief Systems Engineer (CSE) of Oakman Aerospace, Inc. “We knew CIU/Kinross was the best location for the MLI C3 due to its strategic position, but the industry and community support solidify our confidence in the site that optimizes MLI’s C3 goals and objectives, as well as, fully leverages our CIU C3 team’s government customer knowledge base.”

Among the six finalists announced by MAMA Executive Director Gavin Brown at the North American Space Summit (NASS) in September, CIU has emerged as the “site to beat” due to its extensive and existing infrastructure which supports expedited data up/down-linking through secure fiber networking and focused/early investment in pathfinder/risk reduction efforts. The CIU’s top competitor for the site selection includes Battle Creek, MI (Home of the Michigan Air National Guard). Though Kinross has several available facilities/sites similar to the infrastructure offered in competing C3 finalist proposals, CIU was selected due to the fact that it’s existing structures are readily available and more cost effective to configure for optimal command and control center operations than the efforts that would be required to re-configure the competing sites, such as restrictive and non-optimal facility offerings (I.e., correctional facility reconstruction).

The pre-selection public-private partnership (P3) investment in the CIU site, enabled by CIU C3 team members Rebelyon and U.S. Legal Advisors, PLLC (USLA), offers a unique opportunity that no other site provides. CIU C3 team members Rebelyon and USLA will support site security and entity formulation necessary for the effort.  At the forefront of developing public-private partnerships, Rebelyon and USLA provide key insight necessary to ensure the long term viability of a CIU C3 operation.

“USLA is an Eastern Upper Peninsula‐owned and ‐based law firm whose owner has decades of experience in local, regional and global projects relating to security, aerospace, and infrastructure, including cybersecurity, aerospace financing, government contracting and airport infrastructure development,” according to USLA. “USLA is dedicated to supporting OAI and CCEDC to bring the C2 to the Eastern Upper Peninsula and the development of a space‐and‐technology ecosystem that creates sustainable businesses and jobs for the region.”

The pre-selection investment in a CIU C3 site by CCEDC and OAI offers a unique opportunity that no other site provides. In fact, OAI has already begun assembly of their recently-revealed Homestead ground station at the site. Homestead will utilize a high-gain 5.5-meter parabolic dish antenna supporting S-band uplink and downlink as well as X-band downlink for satellite communications and data processing. The Homestead ground station, expected to be fully operational by first-quarter 2021, paves the way for a complete command and control center at CIU.

When OAI was considering locations for Homestead, the search was broad. Despite considering a number of sites around the globe, CIU in Kinross was determined to provide excellent conditions for satellite management and operations. OAI ultimately determined Homestead’s placement because of CIU’s strategic location supporting both polar-orbiting space vehicle command and control as well as lower-inclination space vehicle missions due to CIU’s ideal latitude and longitude. In-depth analysis of the site also proved a CIU C3 would offer the longest sustained communications with a satellite during MLI horizontal and vertical launches when compared to other finalists such as Traverse City or Battle Creek. The exclusive capability of CIU to maintain reliable line-of-sight connection during critical MLI launches is just another unique aspect of the CIU C3 team’s offer.

A proposed phased approach developed from the CIU C3 team’s combined SME in low earth orbit satellite management for both government and commercial domains would make a functional CIU C3 in alignment with expectations for the first launches out of Oscoda and Marquette. With MAMA anticipating initial horizontal and vertical launches beginning in 2023 and 2025, a supporting operational command and control center will be most efficiently achieved through the support of significant industry experience and strategic pathfinder efforts such as Homestead. Homestead and the eventual CIU C3 will enable U.S. Government, Commercial, and Academic missions; and, increase mission assurance associated with future Hybrid Architectures that seamlessly connect disparate systems through standardized interface and interoperability constructs.

As the global aerospace economy continues to push towards large constellations of satellites enabled by Hybrid Architectures, the CIU C3 and Michigan launch sites are ideally located to service international efforts now, and in the future. Unlike other command and control center finalists, CIU is located next to the neighboring towns of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada (the “Twin Saults”). With proximity to and support from an area familiar in handling international operations and agreements, selection of the CIU C3 site would ensure the MLI can harness the power of established international relationships in developing a command and control center to securely support both government and commercial customers.

The CIU C3 team is spearheaded in-part by one of the space industry’s leading authorities on Hybrid Architectures and Meshed Networks, OAI. This expertise and experience are critical for the effective integration and operations of various dispersed and disparate space systems which will ensure the mission success of the command and control center. The team proposed for the CIU C3 effort also includes local companies. With offices in the Detroit area, team member Centauri offers deep knowledge and technical expertise related to: United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Space Force (USSF) multi-station ground command and control; corporate security services and protected communications; and, mission engineering & operations expertise.

“For this effort, Centauri intends to utilize expertise out of our Ann Arbor, MI and Dayton, OH offices… with on-site personnel, remote development of software for ground station operations, workforce training development efforts, and mission engineering/systems engineering consulting services,” according to Centauri. “Centauri intends to leverage our extensive experience in the National Security Space (NSS) community to ensure the effort can support governmental as well as commercial customers with ground station support.”

Another local company committed to the effort is Challenger Communications, a leader in front-end antenna and aperture design/development and operations that will support early CIU C3 space communications pathfinder activities and eventual launch/space operations connectivity. Additionally, Peninsula Fiber Networks, LLC (PFN) has expressed commitment to provide the necessary communications and terrestrial backhaul connectivity for the site through their substantial high-speed, fully redundant, and interconnected fiber links. The team also boasts the commitment of a full-service manufacturers’ representative firm focused on delivering products and services to technical customers in the Great Lakes region, YawPITCH. These key team members, along with local experts at Kinross Fab & Machine Inc. (KFM), will support industrial and infrastructure improvements to new and existing facilities throughout the site.

Community support has also emerged in the form of Bay Mills Community College (BMCC) and Lake Superior State University (LSSU) letters of intent to work closely with the CIU C3 effort to develop training and certification/accreditation programs for local workforce development and retention. The demonstrated industry and academic commitment for the CIU C3 proposal provides MAMA a dream team for the stand-up and operations of a complete command and control center.

A large portion of the CIU C3 proposal involves the surrounding community’s support for the effort. The future command center, along with two launch sites in Marquette and Oscoda, are projected to create over 2,000 jobs. Kinross is an ideal location to support these opportunities as the CIU C3 team is committed to supporting the indigenous talent that exists in the area through regional workforce development and specialization. Upper Peninsula universities already offer various space and engineering programs. The CIU C3 team would focus on expanding university programs supporting requirements for a specialized workforce. With the MLI operations scheduled to start in 2023-2025, the first cohort of space graduates would have completed their bachelor's degree and be ready to enter the workplace while universities continue to roll out annual cohort as space activities grow in the UP.

“Our proposal is distinct for many reasons, one of the most important being its focus on indigenous workforce development through collaborative efforts between industry and academia. Area institutions such as LSSU and BMCC have already pledged their support for the CIU site,” stated Chris Olson, President of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation. “The entire Kinross area will be positively impacted by the long-term and sustainable development opportunities that a CIU C3 would offer.”

MAMA is expected to announce the selected command and control center site by the end of the year.

About Oakman Aerospace, Inc.

Oakman Aerospace, Inc. (OAI), founded in 2012, is a private, woman/veteran-owned corporation based in Littleton, Colorado. OAI is dedicated to providing cutting-edge products and services related to space systems architectures, spacecraft/satellite design and development, and mission payload and data distribution services. As a global provider of space-based solutions, OAI offers complete end-to-end capabilities for customers, teammates, and stakeholders. More information can be found at www.oak-aero.com.

About Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation

Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) was created in March of 1977 after the closure of the former Kincheloe Air Force base, to help retain and create jobs, assist with the stabilization and diversification of the County’s economic base, and to promote investment and trade opportunities for business and the citizens of Chippewa County. CCEDC’s mission is to encourage economic growth through strengthening the county’s competitive position and facilitating investments that build capacity, create jobs, generate economic opportunity and improve quality of life. More information can be found at www.chippewacountyedc.com.

About MAMA

Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) is a member-supported organization that serves the interests of Michigan’s aerospace and defense manufacturing firms with a single unified voice, promoting the state of Michigan’s aerospace and defense manufacturing community within the global industry. More information can be found at www.michman.org.
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