A bill to realize the potential of the Maine SpacePort Complex advances to the 2nd Session of the 129th Legislature

On October 23, the Maine Legislative Council accepted the bill, LR 2970, “An Act To Establish a Public-Private Collaboration for Emerging Nanosatellite and Aerospace Technology,” sponsored by Senator Shenna Bellows (D-Manchester) for consideration in the second session of the 129th Legislature this coming spring. The bill would position Maine to become one of the few northern hemisphere launch sites for nanosatellite technology, an emerging sector prime for expanded economic development in the state.

The bill would establish the “Maine SpacePort Leadership Council” which would be charged with creating a Strategic, Business and Implementation plans including strategic priority areas on which to focus development, due diligence for launch site selection and fast track approval, coordination of academic/private industry/government and public interests, securing private investments in the Complex, and establish meaningful key performance indicators and goals to work towards among other responsibilities.

The Maine Legislature’s Office of the Revisor’s is processing the bill and will be released shortly along with the committee assignment.

Below is a summary of the status of the market study of the spaceport complex.

The Maine Space Grant Consortium is in the final stages of completing a study funded by the Maine Technology Institute to assess the market demand for the Maine Space Entrepreneur and Innovation Complex (or the Maine SpacePort Complex for short).  The results of the study indicate that Maine is poised for a leadership role in the emerging and fast-growing market for nanosatellites, by launching nanosatellites using small, low cost launch vehicles. NASA, DOD, several small and large aerospace companies and academic institutions in the Northeast region are highly interested in using launch facilities in Maine.

What is it?

Development of facilities to build, launch, and support small rockets carrying nanosatellites into low earth orbit. Technology advancement and lower costs have created “New Space” – a $340 billion market sector composed of satellite manufacturing, satellite launch, ground equipment manufacturing and operations, and satellite services. New Space has shifted space exploration and operations from the exclusive domain of large government projects to private industry through greater affordability, precipitating a wave of industry innovation and growth in lower cost satellite driven businesses.

  • Nanosatellites, which include “cubesats,” are small, 1 to 10 kg, satellites that can be launched into orbit by small to medium thrust, low-cost rockets to conduct a wide variety of sensing, technological, or communication functions.
  • The market value of nanosatellites was $720 million in 2017 and is projected to reach $3.5 billion in 2023 largely due to their use in a broad range of commercial applications in all regions of the world.
  • Because of their relatively low cost, nanosatellites can be developed, built, and launched by a wide range of interested parties, from school groups to the largest aerospace companies.
  • This wide use will attract R&D companies, startups, manufacturers, launch providers, and suppliers to SpacePort Maine to capitalize on new opportunities to launch nanosatellites.
  • These companies will employ a highly skilled and highly paid workforce, retaining graduates of Maine universities and colleges, attracting out-of-state skilled professionals, and positioning the state as a leader in the emerging and fast-growing global nanosatellite market. A technically and financially feasible SpacePort Maine will be “the tide that lifts all boats,” paving the way for significant improvements in Maine’s economic prosperity.

Why Maine

  • Maine’s geographic location and potential overwater launch allow easy access to polar orbit.
  • Existing infrastructure at Brunswick Landing and Loring Commerce Centre.
  • Maine’s growing community of space industry businesses.

Maine’s Opportunity

  • Maine’s geographic location presents an attractive alternative to established facilities in Kodiak (Alaska) due to proximity and Vandenberg AFB (California) due to limited commercial launch schedule accessibility.
  • Maine has a unique, time-limited geographic advantage to establish satellite launch capabilities. Proposals in Michigan (pursuing entirely private funding for development) and Georgia (using a mix of public and private) both have similar focus on launching small/nanosatellites using micro launch vehicles catering to commercial interests for low earth orbit missions.
  • Maine is currently home to 52 aerospace companies, including two micro launch vehicle companies – bluShift Aerospace and VALT Enterprises –the former has received federal Government funding in the form of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to support the goal of commercialization.
  • Growth of the New Space economy will:
    • spur development in all seven technology sectors targeted for growth by State of Maine (information technology, advanced materials, precision tech, biotech, forestry/agriculture, marine tech/aquaculture, environmental tech); and development of globally based applications that enable the use of nanosatellite data for both commercial and consumer uses.
    • help train and retain Maine’s students graduating with aerospace-related STEM degrees; encourage startups; attract skilled workers and their families from out of state; and analysis of data generated by satellites can enhance decision making and improve management of natural resources.
  • This initiative will facilitate STEM learning opportunities through engaging with Maine’s 29 colleges and universities, representing nearly 45,000 students, and approximately 185,000 K-12 students.

Short and Mid-Term Goals

  • Short-Term Goal (Spring 2020): Maine State Legislature and Maine State Government pass legislation to establish the “Maine SpacePort Leadership Council” which would be charged with creating a Strategic, Business and Implementation plans including strategic priority areas on which to focus development, due diligence for launch site selection and fast track approval, coordination of academic/private industry/government and public interests, securing private investments in the Complex, and establishing meaningful key performance indicators and goals to work towards among other responsibilities.
  • Mid-Term Goal (~5 year): Launch a Maine-built satellite, on a rocket designed and manufactured in Maine, from a Maine launch site – establishing Maine as a hub for New Space innovation.

Needs

  • Demonstration of government support and commitment through creation of “Maine SpacePort Leadership Council,” signaling Maine’s seriousness of intent and facilitating financial support from stakeholders to achieve short-, medium- and long-term goals.
  • Government support in the form of policy development/reform – key to reducing barriers to entry and signaling support for market development externally in order to attract key stakeholders.
  • Business commitment and investment to build the complex, provide support services and use the facilities for launching nanosatellites and supporting product development and commercialization.
  • Willingness of academic institutions to align curricula with priority New Space industry focus areas.

Maine SpacePort Complex Business Components

1. Maine Launch Sites and Services (Loring Commerce Centre and Coastal Sites).

Staging and launch sites for sending small vehicles with nanosatellites into polar orbit.

VALUE:

  • Creates highly skilled jobs in a growth industry attracting/retaining young workers to help combat the current workforce deficit.
  • Attracts out-of-state businesses, business visitors, and tourists to Maine.
  • Leverages Maine’s capabilities in rocketry and geospatial analytics to become a more visible national/international industry destination and an authority in New Space launch.
  • Creates new revenue and expands tax base as result of being international asset.

2. Maine Space Data & Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence (Brunswick Landing Suggested).

State of the art computer center with network equipped to import/downlink, store, cleanse, manage, and analyze satellite data in concert with terrestrial data for the purposes of solving business and public issues in innovative ways and creating new data products and services.

VALUE:

  • Creates foundational cross-cutting next generation workforce skills in the data economy.
  • Enhances STEM education and engagement in K-12 and higher ed curriculum through partnerships with private industry to explore use cases for satellite data.
  • Provides business intelligence for local industries (e.g., forest management, aquaculture) to improve decisions.

3. Maine New Space Innovation Hub (Brunswick Landing).

A New Space industry meeting place, hub for new business incubator/accelerator, and ground control for satellite launch operations. This shared space will contain specialized equipment to facilitate business R&D, academic and scientific inquiry, and will attract both in- and out-of-state interests.

VALUE:

  • Facilitates new high-tech and data driven businesses and new jobs.
  • Specialized equipment attracts out-of-state business and academic interests to Maine.
  • Serves as a place to engage and inspire the public through programming and planetarium entertainment.