Proposed Maine Spaceport gets $1.2M federal boost toward liftoff

  • July 27, 2022
Maine’s “new space” industry includes Brunswick rocket-maker bluShift Aerospace, whose prototype rocket, Stardust 1.0, lifted off from Loring Commerce Centre in Limestone last year.

The proposed Maine SpacePort — a complex that could include a commercial rocket launch site in Limestone and “mission control” in Brunswick — got a boost Tuesday from the award of $1.2 million in new federal funding.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration provided the grant to the Maine Space Grant Consortium for final planning around workforce development, business development and external engagement needs for the Maine Spaceport, according to a news release.

The EDA funding will be matched by $407,407 in state and local funds.

In 2020, the consortium received a $445,000 grant from the EDA to begin developing the SpacePort plan. State legislation that year also created a leadership council to come up with a proposal and promote the emerging private spaceflight industry in Maine.

Maine companies already tapping into that market include bluShift Aerospace, whose founder, Sascha Deri, was honored on the 2021 Mainebiz Next List. His company recently announced plans to construct a launch site off the coast of Steuben.

The global market for nanosatellite and aerospace technology could bring between $500 million and $2.5 billion to Maine’s economy each year, along with 75,000 highly skilled workers over its lifetime, state officials said in 2020.

The idea of developing a “Cape Canaveral” in Maine has to do with the state’s unique geography. Maine’s northern latitude is best for polar (non-geosynchronous) space flight, the kind that carries most small satellites. And launches in the state wouldn’t have to travel over heavily populated areas.

Details and even the location of the SpacePort are not yet ironed out. But on Tuesday, officials and elected representatives were bullish about the grant and Maine’s potential for liftoff.

“President Biden is committed to supporting communities as they work to create economic opportunity and build a better America,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This project will support completion of the Maine SpacePort Complex, promoting long-term business development and job growth.”

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Rep.Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District, said, “As Maine communities adapt to the shifting 21st-century economy, our state has the opportunity to lead the way in sectors of the future. This investment in the Maine SpacePort Complex will be a new, significant economic driver.

“Along with creating good-paying jobs, the complex will attract talent from across the world to our state, and create real opportunities for Maine people to enter the growing space industry.”