Hoping to get in at the start of an industry with billion-dollar potential for the state, Maine is going boldly going where no one has gone before – no one on this side of the country, at least.

A shot from the launch of Stardust 1.0, bluShift Aerospace’s first rocket, in January 2021. bluShift is among the 85 space-related companies in Maine that the state hopes benefit from its planned spaceport. Courtesy of bluShift Aerospace

The Legislature passed and Gov. Mills signed last week a law that will create the Maine Space Port Corp., a public-private partnership whose purpose is to help build up and support the state’s burgeoning aerospace industry.

Once complete, Maine’s spaceport, from which small satellites would be shot into orbit to collect data on everything from weather to land use, would be the first in the Northeast, and the first overall to offer launch space, data analysis, education and manufacturing together.

It’s no sure thing. But lawmakers and Mills are right to go after it. Maine has what it takes to make this industry succeed, and the benefits of its success will go beyond aerospace itself.

It’s not starting from scratch. Eighty-five space-related businesses already are operating in Maine. Last year, bluShift launched the first commercial rocket here, and a University of Maine project made data from a small satellite available to students across the state.

The Maine Space Port Corp. will build the Maine Space Complex, likely at Brunswick Landing, to support those businesses and activities, and to develop and attract others. In Brunswick, there will be a center to hold and analyze all the data that comes in from satellites, as well as an innovation hub for research and development, and for education for students of all ages. A vertical launch area will be built at a yet-to-be-determined separate site.

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The goal of the spaceport is to help Maine get a part of the growing nanosatellite market, which is expected to grow from $4 billion now to $25 billion by 2030, the Press Herald reported.

And our state has a lot to offer. Maine’s place on the map makes it uniquely suited to launch satellites into polar orbit. The low population density makes it easier to find a suitable launch site, while former military bases in Brunswick and Aroostook County provide ample space and existing infrastructure.

Maine hopes to capture about 10 percent of the market, and an economic impact study by University of Southern Maine found that the industry could contribute up to $1.1 billion a year to the state by 2042, and create thousands of good jobs.

That appears optimistic in an industry that is so highly competitive, with just 146 launches last year, the highest ever, spread across 13 licensed spaceports, with more in the works. In fact, there is one planned for Nova Scotia that would be a competitor for Maine’s.

But even a smaller piece of the big pie of the satellite industry would be significant for Maine.

And the ability of the Space Complex to attract new residents and investment, and to motivate students, should not be overlooked – aerospace is a huge field with unlimited applications for the future.

Now, because people were not afraid to act boldly, Maine has a chance to be a part of that in a big way.

 

 


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