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Boulder's Ball Aerospace Opens New Satellite Testing Center

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Ball Aerospace has opened a new facility in east Boulder that’s expected to keep the company at the forefront of an increasingly competitive aerospace industry.

Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood says the addition gives Ball the ability to double the number of satellites it works on at any given time. It also enables the company to build and test larger satellites.

Interview highlights:

On the history of the company, and its importance to the Boulder economy…

“It’s a subsidiary of Ball Corporation, which moved its headquarters from Muncie, Indiana, to Broomfield in 1998. Ball had become famous for its Mason jars, but in the 1950s, a Ball family member joined with some University of Colorado scientists to launch what was then Ball Brothers Research Corporation in Boulder.

That company is now Ball Aerospace, which reported sales of $784 million dollars in 2011. Much of that comes from the federal government in the form of civilian and defense projects.”

A few details on the expansion…

“This new facility was opened in east Boulder just last week. It includes 90,000 square feet and includes new clean rooms and testing equipment. It’s the last piece in a $75 million capital investment program that included improvements and expansions of facilities in Boulder and Westminster.

[The expansion] gives Ball Aerospace the ability to double the number of satellites it works on at any given time. It also enables the company to build and test larger satellites. The testing instruments include a thermal vacuum chamber to simulate conditions in orbit and a giant vibrating pad that simulates the shaking that occurs during a rocket launch. It’s pretty cool stuff.”

On the subject of cool stuff… what kind of satellites will Ball be working on?

“The first satellites to be assembled and tested include the WorldView-3 remote sensing satellite. That’s being built for Longmont-based DigitalGlobe Inc., the nation’s leading provider of satellite imagery of earth.

Ball is also working on the Joint Polar Satellite System, a project for NASA. And the company soon will be working on a new round of defense satellites, which the company declined to discuss.”

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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