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Report: NM could be a leader in commercial space industry

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico could become a lead star in today’s commercial space industry if public and private representatives pull together to harness the state’s assets, according to a new report released Friday.

The report, published by the nascent organization New Space New Mexico, outlines the vast opportunities emerging in the nation’s rapidly growing space industry, the unique advantages New Mexico has to achieve a leadership position and the next steps needed to board that rocket.

“The time is now, given all the emerging opportunities,” said Peter Wegner, chief technology officer for Spaceflight Industries and co-chair of New Space’s executive committee. “We’re hoping this report will help get government officials and the local community together to take advantage of everything we have.”

Commercial space is considered the next big-growth frontier for private sector investment, as spending on new technologies and services moves away from its traditional dependence on government entities, Wegner said.

“Many New York investment houses are now looking at the space industry as the next real-growth area, which they project will become a $2 trillion to $3 trillion industry in the next two to three decades,” Wegner said.

Global space investments reached about $348 billion in 2017, the majority of it for satellite-related products and services, according to the Satellite Industry Association, cited in the New Space report. That’s an area New Mexico already excels at, with numerous private companies that manufacture components and provide services, particularly for defense entities connected to space operations at Kirtland Air Force Base.

“New Mexico’s industry sweet spot is satellite manufacturing, but with a concerted effort, New Mexico can grow in the space-derived software applications and other growing sectors of the space industry,” reads the report.

That includes everything from ground stations, launch vehicles and satellites, to space-enabled applications, such as navigation equipment, satellite phones and meteorological services. Data analytics to capture and correlate huge volumes of satellite-generated information is also a fast-growing sector.

New Mexico could capture a lot more of the dollars flowing into those areas through public-private efforts to attract more companies here, help existing companies grow and assist startups in building businesses, said Casey Deraad, New Space founder and director.

To do that, the report calls for creating a NM Space Council, new “connector” programs for investors and businesses and a space investment fund.

The council would unite state entities through networking and public events, jointly market the state’s assets to attract more business here and advocate for the industry at the state and federal levels. The connector programs would provide entrepreneurs rapid, direct access to people, tools and resources, while working to build workforce training and recruitment.

“The report outlines steps to pull everyone together to provide a united voice and market the industry,” Deraad said. “Together we can implement a broad strategy to make New Mexico a lead state in the aerospace industry.”