Aerospace & Defense


With preeminent space observatories, state-of-the-art technology and top-ranked educational and research facilities, Arizona is an emerging leader in the world's never-ending quest to discover the secrets of our solar system.  Arizona's most recent advancements in astronomy, planetary, and space sciences research has generated an estimated $252 billion and 3,300 jobs for Arizona.

Lowell Observatory 

Founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, astronomers at this Flagstaff observatory have conducted fundamental research that led to the discover of Pluto, the first evidence of the expanding universe, and exhaustive measurements of the motions and basic properties of stars. 

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Home to 24 optical and two radio telescopes representing eight astronomical research institutions, Kitt Peak supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for night-time optical and infrared astronomy and day-time study of the sun.

Steward Observatory Mirror Lab

Located underneath the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, which offers the largest astronomy graduate program in the country, the Mirror Lab is helping astronomers capture the most miraculous images of the universe to better understand the secrets of our galaxy.

Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO)

A division of Steward Observatory, Mount Graham International Obervatory is home to one of the world's largest, most advanced and most powerful optical telescopes, the Large Binocular Telescope.  Scientific researchers from around the world make use of the MGIO facilities.


Additional information:

  • Arizona's space and astronomy industry employs more than 3,300 individuals and has an economic impact of $252.8 million (2,310 direct jobs and 1,018 indirect/induced jobs):
    • $138.6 million in earnings
    • $12 million in tax revenues
  • Nearly 30 observatories in the state
  • Lowell Observatory is the only U.S. site of a planet discovery
  • Largest, most visited cluster of telescopes located on Kitt Peak National Observatory
  • Kitt Peak holds the world's largest collection of research telescopes at a single site - 22 optical telescopes and two radio telescopes representing 8 astronomical research institutions
  • The University of Arizona is the first public university to lead a NASA mission to Mars:
    • 2008: the Phoenix Mars Lander successfully landed on the Red Planet
    • 2012: Curiosity began its two-year expedition; UofA staff contributed to the technology being used to collect information, samples and high-res images
  • The Discovery Channel Telescope located at Lowell Observatory, outside of Flagstaff, is the 5th largest nationwide
  • The Large Binocular Telescope located on Mount Graham in Southern Arizona, is the world’s most powerful optical telescope
  • Steward Observatory has become one of the largest in the world with optical, infrared and radio facilities on Mount Lemmon and Kitt Peak and partnerships in large telescopes on Mount Graham, Mount Hopkins and in Chile
  • Steward Observatory and the UA Astronomy Department now represent a $50 million to $80 million annual enterprise and employ more than 400 people
  • Four major research institutions in Arizona have been provided the NASA Space Grant. The NASA Space Grant program provides a linkage between higher education institutions and their aerospace science programs. The four member institutions of the Arizona Space Grant Consortium are:
    • University of Arizona (Leader)
    • Arizona State University
    • Northern Arizona University
    • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University