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September 30, 2020

Maine's space era ready for lift off with $445K grant for spaceport study

Photo / COURTESY OF BLUSHIFT AEROSPACE bluShift Aerospace, of Brunswick, plans to launch one of its test rockets in Presque Isle Oct. 21 as Maine, boosted by a federal grant, moves forward on development a spaceport in Brunswick and Presque Isle.

The Maine Space Grant Consortium has been awarded a $444,009 federal grant to develop a strategic plan for the Maine Spaceport Complex, just as bluShift Aerospace Inc., expected to be a big part of the state's space race, plans its first rocket launch.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration grant will be matched with $148,489 in state funds and $111,442 in local money, according to a news release.

The Maine Space Grant Consortium is helping to develop a spaceport, with the Brunswick Landing campus as mission control for a program that would launch cubesats — small satellites — from the Commerce Centre in Limestone, the former Loring Air Force Base. The consortium is conducting a study, funded by the Maine Technology Institute and NASA, on the market feasibility of the program.

Brunswick Landing-based bluShift plans to launch its 20-foot Stardust 1.0 test rocket at the Commerce Center. Plans are for the 540-pound rocket to reach 4,500 feet before landing safely. Eventually, bluShift's rockets would carry cubesats into space, and be a major part of Maine's space industry, Sascha Deri, bluShift founder, told Mainebiz last year.

The federal grant was announced Tuesday at a Brunswick Landing news conference.

“This EDA investment will diversify Maine’s economy by advancing the establishment of the Maine Spaceport Complex that is expected to include an Innovation Hub with research, development, and manufacturing facilities, as well as launch facilities in Aroostook and Washington counties," said Dana Gartzke, acting assistant secretary of commerce.

“After almost seven months of living in this new world brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that Maine’s economy is hanging in the balance," said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District. "We must diversify our economy to make it more stable far into the future."

There's a global market for emerging nanosatellite and aerospace technology, a financial sector projected to bring between $500 million and $2.5 billion to Maine’s economy each year, along with 75,000 highly skilled workers over its lifetime, officials at the news conference said.

Maine space industry prepares for liftoff

In June 2019, bluShift won a $125,000 grant from NASA to develop its product, and Brunswick Landing, which is run by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, calls for development with a focus on aviation, aerospace and new technologies.

On March 5, Deri and other stakeholders were part of a launch ceremony for a bill, LD 2092, that would create a leadership council to come up with a space port proposal and promote "new space" — the emerging private spaceflight industry in the state. The bill is still pending after the Legislature shut down 12 days later as the pandemic took hold.

The bill would create a public-private partnership of commercial nanosatellite and aerospace interests, as well as local, state, federal government and academic leaders, to look into developing a spaceport site.

The site would include a space data and analytics center, a new space innovation hub and launch sites. It would also have services for increasing the state's participation in the emerging new space global market, including nanosatellite and aerospace technology. It originally called for a strategic plan ready for presentation to Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2021, but that will likely be pushed back because of the pandemic.

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February 4, 2021

I'm so pleasantly surprised and excited that Maine is involved in aerospace. Searching for more information on who is all involved, what niche can be filled and whom to contact to get involved

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