Maine’s ‘new space’ industry set to blast off

  • May 16, 2023

Maine could be an integral player in the “new space” industry by 2030 and, by 2042, the industry could be contributing up to $1.1 billion a year to the state economy.

That’s according to a new initiative called Maine Space 2030, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the economic potential of the new space economy for the Pine Tree State.

“With over 85 aerospace companies already operating in Maine, world-class advanced materials facilities, and an unrivaled polar orbit geographical advantage, we have the hard and soft assets to launch a national environmentally responsible leading-edge hub for the NewSpace industry, particularly as it relates to small rocket and nanosatellite markets,” said Terry Shehata, executive director of the Maine Space Grant Consortium and co-founder of Maine Space 2030.

The new space economy is characterized by innovations that have reduced the cost of designing and launching small satellites and launch vehicles, and have increased participation by private investors and startups in space exploration and the development of associated products and services.

Examples include bluShift Aerospace Inc. in Brunswick, maker of the world’s first commercial prototype rocket to be powered by near carbon-neutral, nontoxic fuel; and Biddeford manufacturer FMI and Lewiston manufacturer Elmet Technologies, which work with NASA to produce components for various missions.

Shehata said Maine can grow its new space economy by recruiting more space-related businesses; building on the research-and-development and educational capabilities in the state’s institutions of higher education; and building a pipeline of students and workers.

“Maine is at a critical crossroads,” he said. “Our pathway to space leads through our schools and universities, our entrepreneurs and business leaders, and through the funders and believers who can envision Maine as a new space leader.”

graphic of maine map with spots and key
A Maine Space Complex is being proposed with a geographic distribution designed to bring economic benefits to many areas of Maine.

Maine Space 2030 organizers said their campaign will:

  • Promote K-12 advanced math, computer science and engineering
  • Serve as an information hub for space-related activities in Maine’s higher education and not-for-profit research organizations
  • Underscore the work of the newly established Maine Space Corp. and Maine Space Complex
  • Highlight the state’s space-related manufacturing supply chain
  • Promote opportunities for internships, fellowships and training programs for students and workers

Founding partners of Maine Space 2030 include the Maine Space Grant Consortium, Maine Composites Alliance, University of Maine, University of Southern Maine, Maine Community College System, Roux Institute, Educate Maine, Manufacturers Association of Maine, Maine International Trade Center, Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, Maine Department of Transportation, SHL Enterprise Solutions and DesignLab LLC.

The Maine Space Corp. was established by LD1923, enacted by the Maine Legislature, and signed into law in April 2022. The corporation is a quasi-state body designed to position the state to become a leader in the new space industry by managing the development and growth of the Maine Space Complex. The complex includes three geographically distributed shared-resource business units that focus on space data analytics, space R&D innovation, and services for small launch vehicles.

The campaign is launching the inaugural Maine Space Conference, scheduled Nov. 5-7, at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland. The conference will feature presentations and discussions from leaders across the state and the nation. Topics will include the Maine Space Corp., Maine Space Complex, research and development, education and workforce development.

To learn more about the space conference, click here.