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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Senator Martin Heinrich was in attendance on Thursday to announce NewSpace New Mexico’s launch of its Unite and Ignite Space. The space will serve as a co-innovation hub that will aim to bring together resources to support the space industry in New Mexico. 

“We have an incredible opportunity to establish New Mexico as the best place in America for space innovation and the new careers that it will create,” Heinrich said. Heinrich secured $11 million in funding through the FY20 and FY21 National Defense Authorization Acts to create this small satellite innovation hub based in Albuquerque. The project has the support of community leaders who were also in attendance at the press conference, who hope that the innovation hub will attract further investment in New Mexico’s expanding space industry. 

“The location will amplify our ability to develop products, services, and collaboration spaces that enable New Space companies to enter, innovate, and thrive in the new space era,” NewSpace founder and CEO Casey Anglada DeRaad said.  

New Mexico is already home to Spaceport America, the first spaceport dedicated to commercial use. On May 22, 2021, Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America’s primary user, launched its VSS Unity which sent a crew of 2 into space. The flight made New Mexico only the third state from which humans have been launched into space. Albuquerque’s Unite and Ignite Space seeks to capitalize on New Mexico’s growing prominence within the US space industry.  

The project is also viewed as one with strategic importance in the increasingly competitive space race. Colonel Eric J. Felt made an appearance in a prerecorded video, emphasizing the importance and need of investment in the nation’s effort to increase its presence in space. He cited renewed competition from both Russia and China and the increased participation of private companies as a driving motivation to invest in the space industry.

Heinrich also noted the rise of private interests in space and that the increasing accessibility to space is a relatively new phenomenon and has the potential to create opportunities and jobs in New Mexico. “The Unite & Ignite Space and the overall MaxQ campus will allow us to create the right environment for both established companies who are looking to build a presence in New Mexico and for homegrown companies who want to expand and thrive,” Heinrich said.  MaxQ is a new space tech business park coming to the Gibson Boulevard corridor near the airport in 2022.

The rise in private investment and involvement has led to a relative space industry boom in New Mexico. According to New Space New Mexico, there are 107 companies in New Mexico operating in the space industry. The number is only expected to grow as Virgin Galactic continues to increase its operations in the state. The company has another space test flight planned for July 11. 

NewSpace New Mexico also touted already established players in the national space industry as significant attractions for other companies to view Albuquerque as an attractive location. The lab is located near Kirtland Airforce Base, which announced last month its new Space Warfighting Operations Research and Development lab. Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory are also located nearby and play a significant role in the space industry. With an already established space industry and a workforce catered to the industry’s needs, NewSpace New Mexico hopes to place Albuquerque at the forefront of the space industry. 

“Our local space innovation ecosystem has already built a strong track record by repeatedly setting the standard for how to develop novel space technologies at the speed of relevance,” Heinrich said. 

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