In-Depth Report

NY Regions Home to Dynamic Space Ecosystems

Patrick Chase
May 24 2022
New York is home to a diverse set of regions far beyond the globally recognized New York City. From the dark skies of the North Country through the rolling hills of the Southern Tier to the mighty Niagara Falls in Western New York, the state possesses the full range of communities from global cities right down to rural farming hamlets and wooded college towns.

This diversity also extends to our space ecosystem, with each region having developed their own set of institutions, organizations, and networks that make their part of the New York space sector unique. This is a story of widespread civic and academic engagement in every corner of the state. This is a story of statewide space and astronomy resources on K-12 campuses, a unique and powerful foundation on which to raise a generation of space savvy explorers. This is a story of a quiet economic engine, with aerospace, core space, and space & defense companies statewide sustaining over 40,000 jobs in every corner of the state.

Our report will take you on a tour of all 10 regions, highlighting their unique space ecosystems and the role they play as cultural, academic, and economic growth engines for the residents of New York. We encourage you to jump back and forth from this report to our data pages, diving deeper into the fascinating stories of these individual organizations and facilities.

Empire Space believes this regional approach is the fastest and most productive path for New York to grow as a national space power. Each region offers something different, something special, something unique to the broader ecosystem, and maximizing the creativity and innovation across the state is critical to unlocking our potential as a major space hub.

We encourage stakeholders and citizens alike to read this report and allow themselves to wonder and imagine what the future could hold. How can these existing institutions be leveraged to attract new jobs? How can we come together as a community to bring more exciting programming to my kids school? How can the folks in my neighborhood play a larger role in shaping human development and immersion in space?

Let’s take a tour.

Long Island

Long Island has a proud history as an aviation and aerospace hub. It has been referred to as the ‘Cradle of Aviation’ for hosting Charles Lingburgh’s trans-Atlantic crossings, and was a construction hub for the Apollo Lunar Lander program.

This proud legacy still shapes the regions’ story today, as Long Island hosts a significant portion of New York’s aerospace research and manufacturing facilities. A broad network of complex machinists, electronics developers, and parts suppliers dot the island from Syosset to Riverhead, employing over 9,000 people and supplying every major space and aerospace company in the country. A significant number of businesses also have long standing ties to NASA, supplying parts to a wide range of orbital and deep space missions. It is no exaggeration to say that Long Island is the primary reason parts stamped ‘Made in New York’ are flying through the Solar System as you read this.

There is also extensive academic infrastructure in the region. Numerous K-12 districts host planetariums, while extensive space related programming is available at prominent colleges & universities such as Hofstra, Stony Brook, Adelphi, and Nassau Community College. There are also unique aviation related programs that pay homage to the region's history as a flight training hub.

A series of prominent museums, planetariums, and observatories serve the general public, offering high quality access to space and astronomy in communities from Syosset to Riverhead. The Brookhaven Lab is a world-class research facility that has been conducting path breaking scientific research (and supporting thousands of jobs) for 75 years. The Lab estimates that every year they enhance the education of 35,000 K-12 students on Long Island, 200 undergraduates, and 500+ teachers nationwide. This is a potent civic sector generating significant human capital for New York’s space ecosystem.

Long Islanders can take pride in their space heritage, and have the tools available to ensure their home continues to play an integral part of the future American story in space.

New York City

The City That Never Sleeps has a unique and pivotal role in the New York space ecosystem. While it is absent any rocket ranges or dark skies, the City is home to powerhouse universities, world-class public science facilities, and a unique role as a global hub of space finance.

Headlined by global universities such as Columbia and NYU, there is also an immense network of CUNY schools and other institutions spread throughout the boroughs offering programming in physics, aeronautics, and engineering. World-class facilities like the Hayden Planetarium exist in the same borough as much cozier Lower East Side Girls Club Planetarium, demonstrating the full range of civic space assets available to New Yorkers.

In terms of private companies, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is home to an energetic cluster of space start-ups, while parts of Queens and Brooklyn are home to legacy aerospace manufacturers. Manhattan hosts a cluster of tourism companies with certified Virgin space agents, while a handful of boutique architecture and design firms engage in work with NASA. This diverse mix of companies employs over 3,500 people throughout the 5 boroughs.

Yet nothing compares to the uniqueness and potency of the New York City space finance sector. New York was a Top 2 source of domestic space financing in 2021, a global space finance hub that is a primary source of financial fuel for the American space ecosystem. The mix spans the full gamut of finance, with boutique investors, venture capital firms, and large investment giants all active in the space finance sector.

NYC is the undisputed gravity well of the state, a center for arts, culture, commerce, government, and travel. NYC is also home to the beating heart of the American space finance sector, which holds the potential to open countless doors for the space sector throughout the rest of the state.


The Mid-Hudson region is dominated by its namesake river, which forms the backbone for numerous small cities that anchor the region's dynamic space ecosystem. The Mid-Hudson region is perhaps most notable for its’ significant academic space network, especially for younger New Yorkers.

The region is home to numerous high quality public planetariums, including the Andrus Planetarium in Yonkers and the John R. Kirk Planetarium at SUNY New Paltz. College level space programming can be found at Vassar College, SUNY New Paltz, and at the community college level.

The most impressive aspect of the Mid-Hudson region is the extensive network of K-12 planetariums spread throughout the region. 13 districts have planetariums on campus available to students, enriching thousands of lives year after year and entrenching space education at the family and neighborhood level throughout the region. This concentration of student planetariums is far above the state average, and truly sets the Mid-Hudson region apart.

The region is home to a modest concentration of aerospace and aviation companies, with some notable space education organizations located in the region as well. There is a small cluster of venture capital firms in the region that are modestly active in space finance.

The Mid-Hudson is home to a strong civic and academic space ecosystem, bringing educational and community opportunities to communities up and down the Hudson River.

Capital Region

Anchored by the State Capital complex in Albany, this region is home to more than just the hub of New York’s government. It is also home to a quality network of planetariums, schools, rocketry and astronomy clubs, and research facilities.

Residents can participate in amateur astronomy or rocketry through well established community groups, or visit the Empire State Aerospace Museum in Schenectady. The region is also home to the SUNY Research Foundation, the nation’s largest comprehensive academic research foundation, an invaluable source of support for the New York scientific research infrastructure.

The Capital Region is also dominated by major universities conducting direct and indirect programming and research in the space industry. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, Skidmore, Siena, and SUNY Albany offer a wide range of unique and high-quality academic resources and serve as core contributors to the Capital Regions’ space ecosystem.

There is also a cluster of aerospace firms, space startups, and space venture capital firms that exist alongside large state financial incubators and accelerators. This unique mix forms the core of the space private sector and finance network in the region, with a modest employment between 500 and 1,000.

New York’s Capital Region is more than just the seat of government in Albany. It is home to a wide array of civic and academic space resources serving as a critical foundation for a space ecosystem hub.

North Country

As one of the most rural regions of New York, hundreds of miles outside of metro New York City, the North Country is blessed with some of the darkest skies in the entire eastern half of North America.This gives North Country residents daily access to the darkest skies around, a stargazing and observing experience the rest of the state lost access to decades ago. It should not be surprising then that the North Country is home to the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory, a recently upgraded science center and operational observatory.

The North Country is also home to 4 universities with diverse space related program offerings. Both SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Plattsburgh host on campus planetariums, Clarkson University hosts an impressive array of student groups, and St. Lawrence University offers a small school Physics program.

Pairing this active academic infrastructure with the natural bounty of clear night skies makes the North Country a truly unique resource in the broader New York space ecosystem.

Mohawk Valley

The Mohawk Valley is a region defined by the central transportation arteries that run through it: the Erie Canal and the NYS Thruway. Centered on a series of modest canal cities surrounded by college towns and rising hills, the Mohawk Valley is also home to a dynamic space academic network that serves as the backbone for the local space ecosystem.

The Mohawk Valley is home to over 1,100 space and aerospace jobs, with the largest concentration of activity surrounding the Griffiss Institute in Rome. This growing hub is attracting investment and jobs in numerous Aerospace and Space & Defense companies to the Mohawk Valley.

Colleges and universities in every corner of the region offer physics, astronomy, and even astrogeophysics degree programs. There are on campus planetariums and observatories in the region, as well as a broad array of active student groups in a number of space related fields. The region is also home to a unique asset in the OHM Boces Mobile Planetarium, an amazing resource for bringing STEM and space to students, one Empire Space hopes to see replicated and supported throughout the state.

The Mohawk Valley has a great story to tell about how transportation has shaped its history. There is already an academic foundation in place for space to be a part of its future.

Southern Tier

The Southern Tier is a region of rolling hill country dotted by the mid-sized cities of Ithaca, Binghamton, and Elmira. These cities serve as regional anchors for a vibrant civic and academic space sector.

Over 7,500 Southern Tier jobs are supported in the regional space ecosystem, with a significant majority of that total coming from major Space & Defense companies such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and Amphenol Aerospace. Ursa Space Systems, located in Ithaca, is a prominent Core Space company making news in the ever changing satellite industry.

Ithaca is a lakeside college town that hosts multiple universities like Cornell and Ithaca College that are home to on-campus observatories as well as offering extensive and diverse degree programs. The Binghamton area is home to phenomenal civic space resources such as the Roberson Museum & Science Center as well as the Kopernik Observatory and Astronomy Society. Elmira is home to the Eileen Collins Observatory (named for their native daughter) as well as the Wings of Discovery aerospace museum.

It’s clear that in the cities nestled among the wooded hills of the Southern Tier there is a vibrant civic and academic space ecosystem ready to serve as the foundation for future growth.

Central New York

Central New York is the center of the state, home to its geographic center as well as iconic statewide attractions like the New York State Fair. The region is also home to a dynamic and robust space ecosystem centered around metropolitan Syracuse.

Empire Space currently tracks over 750 jobs supported by the Space and Aerospace sectors in Central New York, with a concentration in the Space & Defense subsector. Major employers include Leidos, the Saab Group, and Lockheed Martin.

The academic sphere is powered by both public and private institutions, with Syracuse University offering a wide array of space-related programs alongside SUNY campuses in Oswego and Cortland. There are also a number of K-12 schools throughout the region with active space and astronomy programs, including 2 on campus planetariums and a BOCES portable planetarium.

The MOST museum and planetarium in Syracuse hosts a newly renovated state-of-the-art planetarium, while the Syracuse Astronomical Society has been engaging the general public in stargazing and astronomy for decades. The Syracuse Rocket Club offers local residents a path into the wonders of amateur rocketry from their launch site between Syracuse and Lake Ontario.

Central New York is not only the center of New York, it’s also a dynamic presence in the statewide space ecosystem with the foundation in place for future growth.

Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes region is known for its namesake sequence of long thin freshwater lakes that stretch across the rolling hills south of Lake Ontario. The city of Rochester anchors the regions’ dynamic space ecosystem while outlying regions host a variety of space-focused resources.

The space and aerospace ecosystem in the Finger Lakes supports over 5,000 jobs, with a diverse range of companies calling the region home. Legacy aerospace manufacturers, precision optics specialists, communications giant L3Harris, and even a space tourism outfit give the Finger Lakes a dynamic and diverse space economy.

Eight colleges and universities dot the region, offering extensive physics and astronomy related courses as well as an incredibly diverse array of student groups. These academic institutions are partners or outright owners of several observatories in the region, demonstrating the power and impact a dynamic academic sector can have on a regions’ space ecosystem.

The Finger Lakes is also home to two high quality amateur rocket ranges in Geneseo and Penn Yan, offering extensive opportunities for residents of all ages. Combined with the opportunities at the recently renovated Strasenburgh Planetarium in downtown Rochester, the Finger Lakes possesses a diverse and robust civic space sector.

The Finger Lakes has a strong foundation for its space ecosystem, with robust activity in multiple sectors and demonstrated positive feedback loops across subsectors. It’s clear the future is bright for space in the Finger Lakes.

Western New York

Western New York is famous for Niagara Falls, buffalo wings, and the Buffalo Bills. It is also home to an impressive concentration of space resources in multiple sectors, generating significant space-related activity that serves as a powerful foundation for future growth.

The space and aerospace ecosystem supports over 14,000 jobs in Western New York, with representation in aerospace, core space, and space defense subsectors. The regional private sector is dominated by the Moog Space & Defense Group, with other major employers working in life support, space system testing, software development, and defense.

The academic sector is full of dynamic universities offering programming in astronomy, physics, aerospace, and engineering. There are also multiple on campus planetariums in K-12 districts around metro Buffalo, and the region is home to a high concentration of schools participating in amateur rocketry competitions.

The civic space sector in Western New York is as rich as the private sector and academic spheres. Multiple public observatories, recently renovated planetariums, and a diverse array of community groups offer numerous ways for residents to participate in the regional space ecosystem.

Western New York may be known for its majestic waterfalls, delicious food, and national sports teams, but one day soon it will also be known for its powerhouse space ecosystem.

The Future

Every region of New York has an active space ecosystem that offers residents jobs, economic activity, academic prowess, and cultural vibrancy. Each region has its own flavor, its own style, its own unique vibe when it comes to developing space. Every region has a foundation in place for future growth, attracting more jobs, more academic opportunities, and more community activity to their neighborhoods.

We hope you remember the questions asked at the top of this report. How can these existing institutions be leveraged to attract new jobs? How can we come together as a community to bring more exciting programming to my kids school? How can the folks in my neighborhood play a larger role in shaping human development and immersion in space?

We all have a part to play in the New Space Age we are all living in, and you can see there is space activity going on right in your backyard. Space is already a part of New Yorks’ story, but to truly maximize our potential and become a major space hub (with all the benefits that entails), we need to collectively raise the priority of space in New York.

Are local government leaders aware of this activity, and acting appropriately to support it? Are school districts, teachers, and parents aware of all the opportunities at their disposal, and what new opportunities can be created to serve students? Are private companies plugged in to all the financial, civic, and academic resources available to help them grow their business? Are colleges and universities fully networked, or do connectivity gaps remain? What capabilities can regions develop (new manufacturing, new research facilities, new educational facilities) that will spur even greater growth in the space ecosystem?

These are the questions before all 10 regions of the state.

We invite you to be a part of the answer.

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