EDITOR’S NOTE: The following testimony was delivered by Sen. Shenna Bellows in support of LD 2092, Resolve, to Establish the Maine Spaceport Complex Leadership Council, at a public hearing held on Thursday, March 5, 2020, before the Joint Standing Committees on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business. We have reprinted it here for your review.
Dear Senator Herbig, Representative Daughtry, and Distinguished Members on the Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business: I am Senator Shenna Bellows representing Senate District 14, which includes the towns of Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop. I am here today to introduce LD 2092, Resolve, To Establish the Maine Spaceport Complex Leadership Council.
This bill establishes a public-private partnership – a coordinating council to undertake the processes required to move forward with the development of launch sites and mission control for Maine to be the leader in the commercial launch of nanosatellites, sometimes referred to as “cube sats.”
This was not my idea. Experts behind me will talk in more detail about Maine’s growing aerospace industry. A constituent, Terry Shehata, heads Maine’s Space Grant Consortium, an entity that has brought millions of dollars into Maine from NASA for investments in education and our economy. In his work, he saw an opportunity. The development of nanosatellite technology with a broad range of applications including communications, research and mapping for industries ranging from agriculture and forestry to pharmaceuticals and telecommunications is posed to be a multi-billion-dollar commercial industry.
So how is it that Maine could be a national and even global leader in this brand new industry? We have three unique competitive advantages: geographic location; existing infrastructure at Loring, Brunswick Landing and Cutler in Washington County; and, a potential workforce.
Our geographic location gives us two advantages: We’re closer than other potential launch sites to industry on the East Coast, and again, experts will speak to this, but Maine is uniquely positioned to launch nanosatellites into the earth’s polar orbit whereas Florida, for example, launches into the equatorial orbit. That our geography could make us a manufacturing and technology leader is remarkable and important to leverage.
Our existing infrastructure is a second key feature. The leaders at Loring and Brunswick have been involved in all the work that has gone into this idea. They understand better than we can how amazing the former military infrastructure at Loring and Brunswick are and how ideal those facilities would be to create launch pads and mission control for commercial launching of nanosatellites through a spaceport complex.
Finally, creating a spaceport complex in Maine will create a pathway for engineering students from our universities to stay and live and work here in our state. A spaceport complex would bring more good manufacturing jobs into our state as well as good-paying facilities jobs in Aroostook and Washington Counties.
Your committee has spent a great deal of time looking at Maine’s economic strategic plan. This proposal fits well within that plan. 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. Additonally, this initiative lines up well with the strategic plan’s goals of helping to train and retain Maine’s students graduating with aerospace-related STEM degrees; encourage startups; attract skilled workers and their families from out of state. Finally, analysis of data generated by nanosatellites can enhance decision making and improve management of natural resources.
Now, to launch rockets into space from Maine – especially for commercial applications – requires coordination among federal, state, regional, local and private entities. The private sector can’t do this without support from public authorities to navigate the regulatory and permitting processes on issues ranging from environmental to use of the airspace. There are already 52 aerospace companies doing business today in Maine. The aerospace companies here today, and the aerospace companies all across the state looking to this as a huge economic opportunity, are in conversations with venture capitalists. Private investment in this area will be enormously important. But the private investors need to know that Maine is serious and that their investment won’t be stopped by some failure to communicate or bureaucratic problem. That’s why a coordinating council is so important. I urge you to vote “ought to pass.” Time is of the essence. Maine needs a spaceport complex leadership council to seize this once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunity.