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The Gaylord native believes Northern Michigan can excel in the space economy

GAYLORD – Originally from Gaylord, Michael Carey believes that despite the region’s remote location, northern Michigan can become part of the thriving space economy.

“Michigan and Northern Michigan are filled with many natural and human resources. The only thing the space industry needs (to thrive) is to focus on this segment, ”he said.

Carey, a 1978 graduate of Gaylord High School, is the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Atlas Space Operations Inc. in Traverse City.

His family moved to Gaylord from a suburb of Detroit in 1972. At Gaylord High School he played soccer and was a member of the cross country team. He also took an electronics course.

“I got interested in radios and electronics. My prophecy in high school was that one day I would run a radio station,” said Carey.

Upon graduation, Carey joined the US Air Force.

“As a soldier, I repaired radios and radar on F-4 fighter jets,” he said.

In 1983 Carey became an officer in the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Central Florida.

After the commissioning, Carey was transferred to the space company program at the time. Now it’s called the United States Space Force.

Carey had a 34-year career in the Air Force, eventually rising to the rank of major general. Upon retirement, Carey and others formed Atlas Space Operations.

“When I left the Air Force, which was my introduction to space, all of the things that interested me came together in Atlas Space Operations,” he said.

Michael Carey

When Carey and his partners started the company, the company was based in California and he lived in Colorado. After discussing it with his wife and son, they decided to live in northern Michigan.

In 2017, Carey met someone from a group of angel investors in Michigan. Angel investors are high net worth individuals who usually financially support small start-ups or entrepreneurs in exchange for equity c -ital in the company.

Finally, Carey received funding for Atlas from angel investors in the Ann Arbor area and Northern Michigan Angels in Traverse City. Atlas then moved to Traverse City.

Atlas provides a network that enables satellites to communicate and send data and information to Earth.

Just like ET, the alien in the 1982 science fiction film, satellites “need to phone home,” Carey said.

“For this to h -pen, (satellite operators) need a network to make this call. Atlas is offering this service to satellite owners so that they can communicate with their spacecraft, ”he said.

Atlas uses its trademarked Freedom software to enable seamless communication between customers ‘satellites and Atlas’ ground antennas.

“The problems we’re solving are how do you get data into the hands of analysts from a distant, remote place called Space,” said Carey.

Atlas currently has 41 employees, and it should be 50 in 2022. Carey said the company has no problem attracting skilled talent to Traverse City.

“We have 26 Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) software resumes, but we sort them. We are very selective in our hiring process,” said Carey.

Atlas benefits from a growing space economy described by the European Space Agency as “the development and profound transformation of the space sector and the further integration of space into society and the economy. Today the deployed space infrastructure enables the development of new services ”. which in turn enables new  -plications in sectors such as meteorology, energy, telecommunications, insurance, transport, maritime, aviation and urban development, leading to additional economic and societal benefits, a key driver of growth in other sectors. “

Carey believes that Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which makes the Falcon launch vehicles, started the US space economy

“When the Falcon 9 rocket was certified by Elon Musk, it opened the door to a change in the space ecosystem as more people could afford to put a spacecraft into orbit,” he said.

Carey said about 60% of Atlas customers are commercial companies like BlackSky Technology, a leading provider of real-time geospatial data to government and military customers, and Planet IQ, which launches advanced weather satellites.

Atlas’s customer list also includes government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service and Finland’s National Meteorological Institute.

Carey would not disclose any specific sales for the company.

“It’s over seven digits,” he would say.

In addition to Altas, Carey believes northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula can attract other space-related businesses and the jobs they create.

“Satellites don’t care where you are. What you need is a place people want to be, and Northern Michigan is a good and affordable place,” he said.

In addition to Atlas, Kall Morris Inc. of Marquette and Orbion Space Technology of Houghton are other space-related companies in the northern part of the state.

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