A new partnership between the U.S. military and the private commercial industry is slated to bring a significant number of modern industries jobs to the Pittsburgh area. At the beginning of December, several national and regional space industry stakeholders gathered at Nova Place in North Pittsburgh to launch the Keystone Space Innovation Center and AFWERX Pittsburgh — a space innovation hub that aims to serve as an epicenter for space cluster development in the greater Pittsburgh region.

The innovation center will temporarily occupy 5,000 square feet at Nova Place while a permanent location is selected. More information on formalized plans and details is set to be announced early next year. The site is currently home to U.S. AFWERX — the Air Force’s innovation branch that pairs technology firms with military personnel — as well as Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-out that has been leading the country’s first return to the moon since Apollo 11.

Serving as a pilot program for future innovation opportunities, this initiative seeks to build on the Keystone Tri-State (Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) region’s storied legacy as a home for tech development and manufacturing, as well as space innovation. Moreover, it also aims to more actively participate in the global space economy, which is currently valued at more than $425 billion and is projected to grow beyond the $1 trillion threshold between 2030 and 2040.

“This innovation hub, our partnership with 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 Vice Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force, General David D. Thompson. “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.”

According to statements made at the launch ceremony, the future, permanent Innovation Center will:

  • Allow increased engagement and collaboration with space, defense, and dual-use technology companies in Pittsburgh and the broader region.
  • Encourage the creation of new space and defense companies in the region and attract out-of-region space companies to join the cluster in Pittsburgh.
  • Serve as the headquarters for the Keystone Space Collaborative and allow for AFWERX and other interested Department of Defense organizations to grow in the area.
  • Provide classified coworking space by means of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), as well as a declassified public Pittsburgh coworking facility to existing regional space ecosystem participants and new companies and entrepreneurs from across the Tri-State area.

“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 artificial intelligence, 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.”

According to the Keystone Space Collaborative, there are more than 300 technology companies in the tri-state area surrounding Pittsburgh that could benefit from this first-of-its-kind initiative. That’s enough to rival the technology presence in states such as Florida, Texas and Virginia.

“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.”

Nova Place – Concourse, at 100 South Commons in Pittsburgh. Property image courtesy of CommercialEdge.

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