Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law on Monday that will help expand Maine’s budding aerospace economy and position the state as a leader in the fast-growing space industry. 

The bill, L.D. 1923, establishes the Maine Space Corp., a public-private partnership charged with building launch sites, data networks and the support operations for sending small satellites into space, as well as for developing new products based on the data collected.

This work will be accomplished through the formation of the Maine Space Complex, which will oversee three businesses: the Maine Space Data and Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence for computing; the Maine New Space Innovation Hub for vehicle manufacturing and ground control for satellite operations; and the Maine Launch Site and Services for launching nanosatellites into polar orbit. 

L.D. 1923 was sponsored by Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick.

“A new space economy of Maine could contribute between $550 million and $1.1 billion per year to the state in the next 20 years, including between 2,800 and 5,500 good-paying jobs. Maine needs to be prepared for coordinated economic development,” Daughtry said previously. “By establishing the Space Corp., we’ll be ready to collaborate between existing and new industries to invest in Maine’s future. This proposal is specialized toward Maine’s needs and has the potential for Maine to fill in the niche of nanosatellite research and development to do innovative work such as tracking the impacts of climate change.”

Industry members say Maine is poised to become a leader in small satellite launches because of its geographic location, strong STEM programs at universities, history of manufacturing, and existing military-grade infrastructure at Brunswick Landing and the former Loring Air Force Base.

The first-of-its-kind complex would serve as a central hub for the industry, facilitate data storage and analysis, research and development, promote thousands of jobs in Maine and contribute millions – even billions – to the state’s economy, supporters say.

Maine’s spaceport would be the only one in the country to offer all three components, said Terry Shehata, director of the Maine Space Grant Consortium. The consortium is a NASA-funded nonprofit that among other things encourages more students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and is leading the effort to bring the spaceport complex to Maine.

“To be clear, the Maine Space Complex is not about only launching small satellites on small rockets,” Shehata said in testimony supporting the bill. “It is about engaging students, researchers, businesses, state and local governments, and communities across the three segments of the new space economy value chain and the underlying infrastructure needed to support these segments.”

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