The Business of Space Exploration

By Rodney Campbell

The Sonoran Desert is quickly becoming a popular base for companies involved in space exploration. Here’s a look at four local companies that have picked Tucson as their launching pads.


Lunasonde, a startup that focuses on subsurface imaging from space, and Exolaunch, a global leader in rideshare launch, deployment and integration services for small satellites, signed an agreement last year to fly a portion of the Gossamer satellite constellation to a sun-synchronous orbit aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Transporter missions in 2022.

Lunasonde is the next frontier in resource exploration, solving the problem of subsurface uncertainty by creating 3D maps that reach up to 2 kilometers underground. The company can locate groundwater, mineral deposits, and other geological resources, and collects the data remotely via its Gossamer satellites. The idea was developed by CEO Jeremiah Pate in 2016 when he was in high school.

Exolaunch provides rideshare launch, deployment, integration and in-space transportation services for the fast-growing new space industry.

Paragon Space Development Corporation

Paragon is celebrating 29 years of pioneering innovation in 2022. The company is a leader in providing solutions for life support and thermal control for extreme environments to space, defense and commercial customers, including NASA, the Department of Defense, Boeing, SpaceX, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Sierra Space.

Paragon recently announced that it finalized a $100 million-plus contract with Northrop Grumman for the life support system of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost program. HALO will be deployed in lunar orbit as the first crew module of NASA’s Lunar Gateway and will serve as both a crew habitat and docking station for spacecraft that will routinely travel between the Earth and the moon. Paragon also just announced it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Final Frontier Design, a leading supplier of spacesuits and ancillary components for NASA and other commercial customers.

Phantom Space Corporation

Phantom Space has a 32,000-square-foot facility in Tucson that serves as its first rocket factory. It’s where the company is building the Phantom Daytona, which will be the first fully US-built, mass-manufactured launch vehicle. Phantom’s target is to reach a capability of hundreds of launches per year. The company is building four launch vehicle development units.

The goal for its first orbital launch is the first quarter of 2023. Along with the Phantom Daytona, the Tucson manufacturing site will host the build of several satellite programs, as well as other space-related projects. Launch operations are being established at the Vandenburg Space Force Base in California, Cape Canaveral in Florida and other sites.

World View Enterprises

World View is an Earth-focused space company that seeks to share a better vision for the planet. Through its Stratollite® imaging and newly launched space tourism and exploration businesses (stratospheric flights lasting 6 to 12 hours), World View is working to ensure its ultimate objective: honor the planet so that future generations may call it home.

Through pre-journey educational experiences and onboard vantage points from the stratosphere, participants are likely to come back to Earth inspired by life-changing perspectives and eager to improve our planet.

The company’s remote sensing division provides stratospheric vantage points and data collection for government entities, corporations, non-governmental organizations and others to more precisely understand, monitor and improve our planet. World View is working on unveiling a capsule prototype, introducing an editorial content series around protecting and preserving the planet.

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