Gen. David Thompson, second in command of U.S. Space Force, chats with students while visiting the Aerospace program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gen. David Thompson, second in command of U.S. Space Force, chats with students while visiting the Aerospace program at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — The University of Colorado is partnering with the U.S. Space Force to team up on research and take on challenges in science and technology.

Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson and Todd Saliman, interim CU president, signed a memorandum of understanding Friday at the university's Colorado Springs campus.

CU is the second university to join the Space Force's University Partnership Program.

"The state of Colorado and the community of Colorado Springs have long been key members and supporters of the national security space enterprise, so it's fitting for the Space Force to establish a formal partnership between the University of Colorado and the Space Force," Thompson said in a statement.

The university is known for its strong aerospace engineering program and research.

"We don't know what the jobs of the future will be in this area," Saliman said, "but we do know we're the ones to provide them because we are so engaged in this sector now."

Given Colorado's large aerospace and defense economy and CU's broad array of related workforce and research capabilities, the university is excited for the opportunity to contribute, Saliman said.

"This is really a perfect example of how we can take our research and our education pipeline and turn it into big ideas that can really advance the nation and Colorado in this sector," Saliman said in an interview. "So, we see this as an incredible opportunity to create new knowledge and new ideas, but also a new workforce so Colorado becomes a hub in this area for the entire country."

Colorado has the nation's largest per capita number of private-sector aerospace employees at 33,460. Altogether, 62,270 private and military aerospace workers support an additional 170,340 workers in all industries throughout Colorado, according to a report by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

Thompson said the hope is to attract talent from geographic or cultural communities underrepresented in the military. Criteria for schools chosen for the partnership include a robust ROTC program and the quality of degrees in STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Space Force is the newest branch of the Armed Forces, established within the Department of the Air Force in December 2019. In June, Buckley Air Force Base became Buckley Space Force Base. The base's control was moved to the Space Force.

Space Force is different from U.S. Space Command, which is a unified combatant command of the Department of Defense and is responsible for military operations in outer space.

Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs was named the Space Command's provisional headquarters in 2020. Peterson lost its bid to be the permanent home when former President Donald Trump named Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.

Colorado officials of both parties have said Trump's decision was political and the former president said on an Alabama radio show Friday that he single-handedly decided to move the headquarters to Huntsville.

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