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UP’s Chippewa County tapped by Michigan Launch Initiative

STERLING HEIGHTS — The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association announced Thursday that Chippewa County in the eastern Upper Peninsula will be home to its new command and control center.

Chippewa was chosen as the third and final site in the Michigan Launch Initiative, a public-private partnership that is expected to bring an estimated 40,000 new jobs. The new command and control center will enable the MLI to interface with the U.S. Department of Defense.

MAMA announced plans for a horizontal launch site at Oscoda-Wurthsmith Airport in February 2020 and a vertical launch site in Marquette in July 2020.

Chippewa County Airport was considered for the center along with KI Sawyer Airport in the U.P. and locations in Traverse City and Dowagiac.

The command and control center will manage satellite operations once rockets carrying small and midsized satellites are launched from the horizontal and vertical launch sites into low Earth orbit, which is about 1,200 miles above the Earth. It also will manage research and development for high-speed suborbital flights.

Now that the command and control center site has been selected, MAMA will work with community, local and state partners on environmental permitting, site design and construction.

“We are extremely pleased with and excited about the selection of Chippewa County for the command and control center location,” said Chippewa County Economic Development President Chris Olson.

The DOD plans to add 17,000 LEO satellites over the next decade — a significant increase over the 1,200 satellites currently there. Michigan’s new launch sites will help meet this demand while providing a multibillion dollar impact on the state’s economy.

The MLI is working to obtain licensing approvals for the Oscoda horizontal launch site and the Marquette vertical launch site. Operations are expected to begin at the horizontal space launch site in late 2023 or early 2024 and at the vertical space launch site by early 2025.

In June 2019, the Michigan Legislature appropriated $2 million to assess the feasibility of developing one or more low-orbit launch sites in the state. Michigan is uniquely positioned to meet the demand for commercial, government and defense space launches. Specifically, Northern Michigan — north of the Earth’s 45th parallel — is perfectly situated for polar orbit launches and it has ideal infrastructure for logistics and technical support.

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