Getting the US Space Command headquarters in Albuquerque almost a year ago was a drive and a failure. Disappointing as it was, New Mexico remains a prime location for building a thriving trading ecosystem related to space innovation – the country’s newest gold rush.
All of the things that made New Mexico a merit-based leader for Space Command are still there – as are the issues that likely held it back. It is no small irony that a state with tremendous brainpower – devoted to high-tech resources like Ph.D. Scientists and federal research funds per capita – struggle with fundamentals like public safety and education. The challenge today is to maintain the historic role of the state as a major player in the space industry despite peripheral challenges and setbacks that diminish the state’s position as a leader in innovation.
The mission of 1,000 new satellite research and development jobs canceled last month at the proposed Orion Center on Gibson Boulevard offers an important lesson. Without pointing a finger at the review process or questioning whether the deal ever really had any legs, one has to wonder what other geospatial opportunities were missed because the city laid many eggs in one basket. Fortunately, there are many others here with a look at what is going to be an impressive price tag.
The nation has entered a new phase of space-related opportunity. As the Journal reported on Dec. 19, the Space Foundation estimates that the space economy has grown 55% over the past decade, reaching $ 447 billion in 2020. It is expected to grow to between $ 1 trillion and $ 3 trillion over the next 20 to 30 years.
The economies of the United States and the world already depend profoundly on space technology and operations to maintain basic social functions. By synchronizing and linking power and communication networks, space technology delivers data for urban planning, agriculture, public health, transportation and more. The next phase in the development of space facilities could work new wonders: harnessing solar energy and transferring photovoltaics to the earth, or making biotechnological products with low gravity.
New Mexico has a head start in unlocking the immense economic potential of space. Space-related efforts at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, and the state’s national laboratories have attracted an impressive number of companies providing support services to experienced federal agencies. The future of the emerging global space industry depends on such public-private partnerships, according to the third annual report “State of the Space Industrial Base” published in November. It was co-authored by Col. Eric Felt, director of the Space Vehicles Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory at KAFB.
New Mexico played a key role in preparing and disseminating the reports. New Space NM, an industry alliance, hosted two conferences to gather participants’ input on the last two reports and is now helping to monitor progress in adopting a “whole-of-government” approach to industrial development in space.
And when it comes to public-private partnerships, New Mexico seems to be at the forefront of business development. The December 20 “Building the Space Ecosystem” in the Journal’s Business Outlook enumerates the myriad of incubators, accelerators, and technology centers established to build New Mexico’s fast-growing commercial space sector.
All of this plays on the strengths of the state. New Mexico has a history and synergy of military bases, national laboratories, research universities, and private aerospace companies – plus a unique spaceport and the only ground-to-infinite airspace outside the White House.
Hosting Space Command headquarters would have made it easier to build an industrial platform for emerging commercial space projects. But this next generation of economic development remains firmly within our reach. Legislators and policymakers mustn’t let it become another missed opportunity. Resources to directly support the aerospace industry need to be combined with better educational outcomes – still waiting for that education moon shot – more STEM graduates from local universities, less crime, and a host of other quality of life issues that have so far started our economy.
It is time New Mexico took its rightful place as the future of space.
This editorial first appeared in the . It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the authors.