National and regional space industry stakeholders gathered recently for the launch of the Keystone Space Innovation Center and AFWERX Pittsburgh. This is a pilot program for future innovation opportunities by means of an AFWERX, Astrobotic and Keystone Space Collaborative partnership to create a permanent, long-term Space Innovation Center on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
Vice Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force, General David D. Thompson, opened the ribbon cutting ceremony with remarks.
“This innovation hub, our partnership the Keystone Space Collaborative and the heightening activities happening here in the Pittsburgh and surrounding region are vital and important to both the United States Air Force and the United States Space Force,” said General Thompson who is a Beaver County native. “I’m incredibly proud to see what this town, this region and all of you have done to create this as a world center for technology, innovation and development, especially when it comes to space.”
The global space economy is valued at over $425 billion today with estimates projecting the space economy to grow to over $1 trillion between 2030 and 2040. The Keystone Tri-State (OH, PA, WV) region has a long legacy as a home for important space missions, tech development and manufacturing, and space innovation. With over 500 regional space ecosystem participants receiving over $2.4 billion in space-relevant federal funding in the last three years, and with many of those space and space-adjacent companies and research institutions being located in and around Pittsburgh, the Tri-State Region is poised to become one of the top locations for innovation and investment in the space industry.
“The Tri-State region has what it takes to be at the forefront of a new space economy,” said Justine Kasznica, Keystone Space Collaborative founding member and Board Chair. “Our region is known for innovation in energy, life sciences, advanced technologies such as AI, robotics, and computer science, as well as advanced manufacturing. These are the industries that will unlock the economic potential of Lower Earth Orbit and beyond. Working together, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are well positioned to emerge as a recognized catalyst of the growing global space economy. This is why the Keystone Space Collaborative was formed and this is why we are thrilled to announce the partnership with AFWERX and Astrobotic to bring a physical space innovation hub to the region.”
Innovation thrives when done as part of a strategic, industry-focused cluster environment, and the Keystone Space Innovation Center and AFWERX Pittsburgh will enable the development of a tangible space industry cluster that will benefit not only the region, but the nation as a whole.
“We congratulate the Keystone Space Collaborative for bringing to Pittsburgh the Keystone Space Innovation Center – an accelerator and a U.S. AFWERX Hub serving the tri-state region,” said Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman. “The greater region is powering the future of technology innovation. It’s also a place where builders and makers are leveraging the combination of legacy and leading-edge manufacturing strengths, as well as engineering and material science expertise, for transformational outcomes. Together we can achieve our vision of becoming the new center of space development and commercialization.”
While the Keystone Space Collaborative and AFWERX are currently nurturing the initiative from a shared temporary location on the North Shore, the permanent, first of its kind Innovation Center in the region will:
o Allow increased engagement and collaboration with space, defense and dual-use technology companies in Pittsburgh and the broader Tri-State region; encourage the creation of new space and defense companies in the region and attract out-of-region space companies to the region;
o Provide classified co-working space by means of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) as well as a declassified public co-working facility to existing regional space ecosystem participants and new companies and entrepreneurs from across the Tri-State; and
o Serve as the headquarters for the Keystone Space Collaborative and allow for AFWERX and other interested DoD organizations to grow in the region.
“We believe that the Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia Tri-State can be equally competitive with other well-recognized space programs in states like California, Virginia and Florida,” said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. “At Astrobotic, we’re honored to be able to serve as a partner in making space an economic driver for the region. We believe that innovation can thrive here, and are excited to work with the Keystone Space Collaborative and AFWERX to offer a permanent facility for the Keystone Space Innovation Center and AFWERX Hub. To that end, we are delighted to announce that we have received a $3 Million RACP award from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to help make this a reality.”
The relationship among the trio comes naturally as Astrobotic and the Keystone Space Collaborative have a well-established partnership – Astrobotic is a Founding Member and Annual Sponsor of the Collaborative and serves on the Collaborative’s Industry Council. AFWERX, an innovation and investment arm of the US Air & Space Force, has funded over $70 million to 230 companies in the Tri-State/Pittsburgh region since 2017, making Pittsburgh a natural fit for the newest of their national AFWERX locations.
“AFWERX is excited to be partnering with Keystone Space Collaborative and having a Pittsburgh location will accelerate all the phenomenal space and dual-use technologies coming out of the Tri-State region,” said Phil Hahn, Deputy Director of AFWERX. “This Pittsburgh location in partnership with the Keystone Space Collaborative and Astrobotic will allow us to unlock even more in this region. That’s why we’ve created storefronts throughout the country, to be more accessible to the private sector. We need the collaboration of commercial partnerships to ensure that our nation stays at the forefront of technology to protect our security throughout the world.”
Formalized plans and details for the permanent Keystone Innovation Center are expected to be announced in early 2023.