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U.S. Space & Rocket Center breaks ground on Space Camp Operations Center to be named for Boeing

HUNTSVILLE — The U.S. Space & Rocket Center on Friday held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new Space Camp Operations Center.

The North Alabama educational space exploration staple announced that it is naming its new operations center for Boeing, a longtime financial supporter of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Boeing is making a $3.5 million donation for the center’s new 40,600-square-foot building which will permanently house the U.S. Cyber Camp. Additionally, the operations center will include a 1,000-seat auditorium as well as 10 classrooms and laboratories to support Cyber Camp programs.

(Boeing/Contributed)

Boeing’s multi-million dollar donation is the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s single largest contribution to date.

Rocket Center CEO and executive director Dr. Kimberly Robinson and Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division, outlined the longstanding partnership which exists between the two entities.

“Our friends at Boeing have been with us since Space Camp began in 1982, and we’re honored to partner with them in creating a space that embraces the future of exploration and will inspire generations to come,” said Robinson.

The Boeing divisional leader noted that a number of the aerospace juggernaut’s engineers are Space Camp graduates.

“The Boeing Company is investing in the U.S. Space and Rocket Center because it provides innovative exposure to STEM-based knowledge and hands-on learning that help students see themselves in the careers of the future,” said Chilton. “In fact, many of our Boeing space systems engineers are graduates of Space Camp, and credit their experiences here with inspiring them to reach for the stars.”

The Rocket Center also announced that it is naming its multi-function lobby of the new operations center in honor of Anthony Loumis, a 13-year-old Space Academy graduate. Funding received from the Allen Foundation contributed to the lobby’s creation.

The operations center’s 10 state-of-the-art classrooms that are to be constructed were made possible by donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Gary Brukardt Foundation and the Dr. Joyce Neighbors Trust. The educational rooms consist of a robotics lab, rocket propulsion classroom and a STEM lab.

Decatur-based Fite Building Company is the project’s general contractor, with Fuqua and Partners serving as the architect for the Rocket Center’s Education Programs Building and Habitat 1 Space Camp dormitory.

The Rocket Center was also awarded an economic development grant from the state of Alabama for the facility’s construction. The project was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, construction is now underway and is slated to open in March of 2023.

In a conversation with Yellowhammer News, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center executive director outlined the building’s components and expressed appreciation to the many donors who made the groundbreaking possible.

“Today is a great day for Huntsville, Alabama, for the state of Alabama and for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center,” said Robinson. “We have broken ground for a wonderful, new beautiful 40,000-plus square-foot building that is going to be state-of-the-art, and is going to house 10 classrooms and labs and other auditoriums and places for our STEM programs.”

She concluded, “We’re so glad to also be able to recognize some major donors who have stepped forward to help us bring this building to fruition.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle told Yellowhammer News of the positive effects the new Space Camp Operations Center will have on advancing the field of STEM in North Alabama.

“[S]pace Camp is kind of our window into the future of what’s going to happen in the STEM disciplines,” advised Battle. “As we look at science, technology, engineering and mathematics – everything that’s taught at space camp is what’s going to take us into the future as a community and as a world. It’s a great way to enhance education in the North Alabama area.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL