(COLORADO) — U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper celebrated the successful launch of NASA’s Artemis I mission by recognizing Colorado’s aerospace companies that played a central role in making the launch possible.

The rocket lifted off shortly before 1:50 a.m. (Eastern Time) from the historic Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

“We have lift-off! NASA’s Artemis is ushering in a new era of space exploration” said Hickenlooper. “The Apollo program inspired an entire generation. Thanks to Colorado’s aerospace companies, Artemis is on its way to do the same.” 

Many Colorado-based companies contributed to the Artemis I mission, including 239 suppliers and subcontractors that supported the Orion spacecraft and 11 suppliers and subcontractors that assisted with Space Launch System (SLS). Notable partnerships recognized by the Senator’s Office include:

  • Lockheed Martin Space (Littleton): Designed and built the Orion spacecraft, with Denver Business Journal naming the Orion spacecraft “Colorado-born”
  • United Launch Alliance (Centennial): Partnered with Boeing to supply the upper-stage booster for SLS. The upper stage booster will be used during the first three Artemis missions to propel the Orion spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit and beyond the Moon.
  • Maxar Technologies (Westminster): Selected to provide the Power and Propulsion Element for the lunar Gateway, which will deliver hardware and services to provide power, navigation control, and communication in future Artemis missions.
  • Honeybee Robotics (Longmont): Was awarded $7 million by NASA to develop vertical solar arrays that can be used during future Artemis missions to power equipment on the lunar surface.

Artemis I is the first in a series of missions to return humans to the moon including the first woman of color for the first time in 50 years, according to Hickenlooper. Colorado’s senator added that the mission is a stepping stone to Mars.

The launch consisted of the uncrewed Orion spacecraft, the only spacecraft designed to carry humans into deep space and back. The Orion is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA that will fly on the SLS, per the Senator’s Office. The spacecraft is expected to travel 280,000 miles from Earth over several weeks and orbit the Moon before returning to Earth.

After completing its mission, the Orion is expected to land back down in the Pacific Ocean on December 11.

Hickenlooper is the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Science. He also served on the Conference Committee to author and pass the CHIPS & Science Act, which included the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2022 to guide NASA’s execution of the upcoming Artemis missions.