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Muhamed Abdelhack covers business and economy for The Paper. He is a communications and journalism graduate of UNM.

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Back in January, it was announced by the U.S. Air Force that Albuquerque, while having been on the short-list of possible locations, was not selected as the headquarters for the U.S. Space Command. Its inclusion would have brought more than 1,000 federal jobs and further cemented New Mexico as “A Homebase for Space.”  “The good news for Albuquerque is that this was only one piece—and not the biggest piece—of our city’s leadership position when it comes to space technology,” said Mayor Tim Keller in a statement at the time. Senator Martin Heinrich, for his part, quickly labeled the decision a rushed one by the outgoing Trump administration and promised to lobby President Biden to reconsider. Indeed it seems that as one door closes, another will open (or, in this case, two). 

The recent confirmation of the arrival of the Washington, D.C.-based business Theia Group, a major player in the satellite industry, and its subsidiary called Group Orion promises to bring 1,000 aerospace and manufacturing jobs into Albuquerque. Plans for the development include constructing 4.1 million square feet of building space located near the ABQ Sunport at the Aviation Center of Excellence Business Park, soon to be renamed The Orion Center.

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) recently held a groundbreaking ceremony on a new facility to be built on Kirtland Airforce Base. AFRL, which is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, develops new technologies for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force. The addition of the lab is not initially meant as a local job creator, but rather “a lab that will augment existing labs to provide a better capability to develop and test space environment sensing technologies for U.S. military applications,” said Eva Blaylock, a Media Operations and Community Engagement spokesperson at Kirtland AFB. The 3,500 square foot state-of-the-art facility, known as The Skywave Laboratory, will be situated on 72 acres and will cost $3.5 million. It allows for the development, testing and deployment of radio and optical diagnostics of the near-earth space environment. In short, the facility will study space weather and how it affects military systems. Todd Paris, who leads the Geospace Environment Impacts and Applications Branch, said of the development, “This exceptional site allows us to develop and test space environment sensing technologies for U.S. military applications.”

AFRL’s Skywave Laboratory is just the latest in a long list of laboratories and aerospace companies that call New Mexico home. And with approximately 107 space companies located in New Mexico, it’s no surprise. New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of the total workforce performing STEM jobs and employs over 22,000 people between current Air Force Research Laboratories, LANL and SNL. Besides training and tax incentives for companies looking to relocate into New Mexico, the state has also made it easier for startup aerospace companies to take advantage of available grants. NewSpace New Mexico, an advocacy group looking to bring more space-based companies to the state, has recently partnered with the New Mexico Trade Alliance and the New Mexico Economic Development Department to make up to $25,000 for International Business Development Grants available to New Mexico aerospace companies. The global space industry is expected to be worth over $3 trillion by 2045, and New Mexico is strategically positioning itself to capitalize on that growth.

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