bluShift Aerospace CEO Sascha Deri watches a test of his company’s rocket engine in Brunswick on March 1, 2022. Contributed image.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday signed into law a bill to create a public-private partnership to help grow the state’s aerospace industry.

Supporters envision the corporation as a central hub for innovation and economic development in the state’s air and space industry.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said the effort has been years in the making.

“The Maine Space Consortium will bring together business, research and state leaders, to help ensure Maine continues to be at the forefront of this industry,” Daughtry said in a statement.

Members of the air and space industry have taken an interest in Maine in recent years, in part because it is home to the former Loring Air Force Base and Brunswick Landing, formerly a naval air station.

The state’s geography and existing infrastructure make it a candidate to serve as a site for small launches, industry members have said.

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The law will create a public-private partnership to facilitate the growth of space and aerospace industries in Maine referred to as the Maine Space Complex, according to Daughtry’s office. The Maine Space Complex will serve as a central hub for Maine’s space industry, facilitate data storage and analysis, promote research and development and bring jobs to Maine.

“While it may sound far off, the space and aerospace economy presents a tremendous opportunity for Maine’s citizens, companies and communities,” said Ali Abedi of the University of Maine System, in testimony supporting the bill. “Increasingly, UMaine has become highly competitive in attracting federal investment, especially from NASA, to advance space knowledge and discovery, and grow our state’s STEM workforce and aerospace industry. In the past five years alone, NASA has awarded $11.6 million to UMaine faculty research.”

“To be clear, the Maine Space Complex is not about only launching small satellites on small rockets,” said  Terry Shehata, of the Maine Space Grant Consortium, 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.”

Gov. Janet Mills, left, signs into a law LD 1923, which was sponsored by Sen. Mattie Daughtry, right. Contributed

The new law will support pre-existing businesses such as VALT Enterprises and bluShift. VALT Enterprises is a Maine business focused on the development of nanosatellites.

BluShift is an aerospace company that develops bio-derived fuels to launch small satellites into space. It is headquartered at Brunswick Landing. The company became the first in Maine to launch a commercial rocket and the first in the world to launch a commercial rocket using bio-derived fuel earlier this year when its prototype launched from the former Loring Air Force Base.

The company describes its business model as the Uber of space, where it will target a specific customer who wishes to send a payload into a particular orbit.

Blushift is looking for a new launch site for its next rocket. The company had approached the town of Jonesport, seeking to build a $2 million launch site there. Citing concerns to its fishing industry, the town’s select board enacted a moratorium on rocket launches, prompting bluShift to abandon its plans for that town.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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