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ABQ is right location for Space Command headquarters

Representatives from the U.S. Air Force and Space Force are beginning to conduct on-site and virtual visits to determine whether Albuquerque is the right place to build the new headquarters for U.S. Space Command. I am convinced they will come to the same conclusion reached by an increasing number of leading private space companies: New Mexico is the future of space.

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Sen. Martin Heinrich

There’s a reason THEIA Group Inc., a major remote sensing satellite company, chose to build a multibillion, 122-acre spacecraft manufacturing campus right next to Kirtland Air Force Base. There’s a reason SolAero, a manufacturer of nearly half the world’s space solar cells and panels, built a massive facility in Albuquerque. And there is a reason that Applied Technology Associates, an industry-leading developer of space-based systems for the U.S. government, was founded and remains headquartered in Albuquerque.

These companies and other space innovators that employ thousands of New Mexicans are invested in our state not because they’ve been lured here by tax incentives – in fact, THEIA applied for none prior to committing to New Mexico. They chose New Mexico as the home base of their operations because of the unique features that make the state the nation’s premier location to build and grow organizations focused on space innovation.

They understand how important it is to be located next door to other leading space R&D companies in a location rich with space-based human talent. They recognize how valuable it is to work alongside the nation’s leading program management and acquisition entities already located at Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base.

Leading public and private space innovators based inside and outside the fence at Kirtland have repeatedly set the standard for how to develop novel space technologies at the speed of relevance. The Air Force Research Lab’s Space Vehicles Directorate, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and many small, medium and large private companies centered near Kirtland are national leaders in space research and development.

Our state’s reasonable cost of living, high quality of life with ready access to the outdoors, and the availability of land for new facilities make the state a smart place to put down roots. We have also developed an exceptional training pipeline for a science and engineering workforce thanks to strong partnerships that join the STEM programs at our community colleges, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Tech and private industry, our national laboratories, NASA’s White Sands Test Facility and Spaceport America.

New Mexico’s greatest advantages in space are simply elemental. Our state’s ideal climate and predictable weather patterns make it the perfect place to manufacture and test sensitive materials that are required for space technology. These same conditions attracted innovators from early Space Race pioneers Robert Goddard to Wernher von Braun, who tested their rockets over New Mexico, to Virgin Galactic, which will soon make new history when it launches its first human spaceflight from New Mexico’s Spaceport America, making our state only the third in the entire country to host a crewed spaceflight.

As it looks for the right location for its new headquarters, U.S. Space Command can and should take advantage of the same opportunities as all of these leading space innovators. The command could not find a more supportive and conducive environment for building up its new service than our state. Supporting cutting-edge scientific innovation in the service of our national defense is what New Mexico does best – just ask anyone at Sandia or Los Alamos national labs.

Albuquerque presents the best possible opportunity for Space Command to build a new headquarters organization from the ground up while leveraging existing core military space assets and organizations with a proven record of success. The ideal, supportive innovation ecosystem for the new Space Command Headquarters is already in place right here at Kirtland.

As the U.S. Space Force determines the right location for Space Command Headquarters, Albuquerque checks all the right boxes.

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