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Wichita, Derby Among Kansas Cities Hoping To Land New U.S. Space Command Headquarters

Wichita and Derby both count McConnell Air Force Base as a selling point in their pitches to be the site of the Space Command headquarters.

Wichita, Derby and two other cities in Kansas have submitted proposals to become the site of the future U.S. Space Command headquarters.

Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday in a news release that the state will direct the necessary resources to help the bids submitted by Kansas cities. Leavenworth and Kansas City, Kansas, also sent proposals.

"Our strong teams of state and local economic development professionals have the tools available for the attraction, growth, and retention of the U.S. Space Command headquarters," Kelly said in the statement. "Kansas is the perfect place for this facility, and we are prepared to do the work to get it here."

Spacenews.com reported that the Department of the Air Force received nominations from 26 states that want to host the headquarters.

The Space Command was created last year by President Donald Trump. According to its mission statement, it would conduct "operations in, from, and to space to deter conflict, and if necessary, defeat aggression, deliver space combat power for the Joint/Combined force, and defend U.S. vital interests with allies and partners."

To submit a proposal, Space Command said communities had to meet three requirements: a population base in the 150 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the country; be located within 25 miles of a military base, and a Livability Index score of 50 points out of 100 or higher as determined by the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute.

"Wichita could definitely handle an operation of this size," said Mayor Brandon Whipple. "It would add to our economy, it would add to our communities."

Both Wichita and Derby are near McConnell Air Force Base. The Greater Wichita Partnership helped both cities prepare their proposals.

"We absolutely see this as a regional win wherever it lands,” said GWP executive vice president for economic development Andrew Nave.

He points to the area’s existing aviation industry, including the National Institute for Aviation Research, or NIAR, at Wichita State, as a top strength.

"We don’t feel like we have just a decent chance or a good chance, we think we have a great chance," Nave said. "We’re very proud of our aerospace heritage and the expertise of our workforce.

"So we think the Air Capital of the World is going to make an extremely compelling case to the Department of Defense about where to put this Space Command headquarters."

Derby Mayor Randy White said in a statement: "Derby will provide the people of U.S. Space Command excellent homes, schools and community life. For decades, McConnell Air Force Base has been more than a neighbor to Derby; Team McConnell is a key part of our community, and we are excited to welcome a new branch of the U.S. Department of Defense."

The Space Command is temporarily based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The branch is expected to select the site for a new headquarters early next year with relocation still six years away.

The Space Command currently has 1,400 military and civilian personnel working in its headquarters.

Nadya Faulx contributed to this story.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.