In-Depth Report

New York Lags Key States in Race to Space

Patrick Chase
Oct 30 2022
(Image Source)

New York has the potential to become a major player in the 21st Century Space Race, but is being eclipsed by other states, and not just the big ones.

Space is the future, as new technologies, new rockets, and new players like SpaceX push human civilization (and economy) further and deeper into the Solar System. The space industry is projected to grow in size to over $1 trillion by 2040, and the list of Nasa spinoffs grows longer year by year as the International Space Station continues its groundbreaking work, impacting industries as diverse as automobile testing, surgical robotics, and air purification.

Many states have realized the rising importance of the space economy and are investing accordingly in their infrastructure and their workforce to lay the groundwork for future economic growth. These burgeoning space hubs will be the key drivers of America’s space ecosystem in the 21st century, and will accordingly reap the benefits of that growth. Any state that wishes to participate in this defining enterprise must actively position itself by taking a broad approach and making critical investments.

New York has an impressive space ecosystem despite the lack of broad statewide actors and zero significant government attention. The existing sector is largely the organic growth from a series of hubs in localized clusters (usually centered around a large university) with an incomplete and unfocused series of connections between them. The sheer size, volume, and power of the New York economy likely sets a high floor in terms of baseline space activity due to associated activity in other technology and business sectors such as aerospace, optics, finance, and electronics.

Analyzing these states and their development of their unique space ecosystems will allow New York and space stakeholders in the state to learn lessons, set benchmarks, and work to create a more prosperous and dynamic space ecosystem in the Empire State. Debra Werner from SpaceNews conducted a thorough and My cool link earlier in 2022 that served as a significant source of information and inspiration for this report.

Key Metrics: The critical components of a successful state space ecosystem, tracked between all case study states for measurement and tracking.

> Government involvement: How active is the state government in the space ecosystem? What form does government action take, successful or unsuccessful?
> Partnerships & Collaboration: How often do various sub-sectors of the space ecosystem collaborate and pool resources?
> Industry Analysis: What key sectors are states focusing on? Are there common themes, or does each state have a unique flavor?
> Infrastructure: What key investments are states making in their space infrastructure?
> Civic & Academic Support: How involved are major universities? Is there a robust non-profit advocacy sector? How involved is the community, and what is the tenor of that relationship?

Report Structure

States were included based on one of two factors: a significant NASA presence and/or a major launch facility or spaceport project. Each state was analyzed independently and impartially to best understand the nature of its own space ecosystem. Data was collected from reputable, publicly available sources and is cited frequently throughout the report.

Key States

New Mexico

Limitations & Future Investigations

Limitations of this report include:
> These analyses are NOT exhaustive. There are undoubtedly numerous examples in each category in these states that were not included. This report is meant to be descriptive, not exhaustive.
> Acknowledged lack of on the ground knowledge or perspective from many of these states, limiting analysis to a more “birds eye view”.

Future areas of investigation include:
> Establishing a standard set of metrics for each state that can be tracked over time, particularly in economic and academic categories.
> Exploration of variances across states in regards to efforts towards increasing diversity and access in the space industry.
> Conduct more extensive interviews and state-specific interviews to understand the nuances of each state and their lessons for New York.

The Nationwide Landscape

This report reveals the true energy and dynamism at play in state-level space ecosystems across the United States. A true diversity of expression exists in these states, with each having a different focus and flavor in how its space ecosystem evolved.

Some are driven by large NASA facilities. Others are building new sectors around big projects like spaceports, hoping to cash in on the promises of a bold new age of space flight. Some have strong ties to their local neighbors, while others are mired in political fights and community friction. Some have mature sectors that have been industry anchors for decades, while others are the “New Kids”, pushing their chips to the table on unproven ventures.

The one common theme among them?


In each and every state there is an ardent and committed group of advocates, teachers, innovators, and government leaders pushing the envelope forward for space in their state. The successful states have fully developed ecosystems, with a deep network of symbiotic relationships between industry, academia, government, and the public. The payoffs from these mature ecosystems are evident in growing economic footprints, resulting in high-paying jobs, increased investment, growing academic prowess, and community pride.

Other states looking to grow their space footprint would do well to study the lessons these 17 state space leaders offer.

Major Takeaways

> Interdependence and symbiotic relationships are critical. Examples: Washington, California.
> Emphasize/build-up hubs. Examples: Alabama, California.
> Don’t ignore civic society. Examples: Washington, Maryland.
> Consult the community: Beware angry neighbors. Examples. Georgia, Michigan, Hawaii, Colorado.
> Space need not be partisan. Examples: Colorado, Virginia.
> State government support is likely determinative. Examples: Virginia, Colorado, Maine.
> Spaceports can be urban. Texas.
> Space projects have a long lead time. Examples: Colorado, Texas.
> Diversification of major projects dramatically increases their viability. Examples: New Mexico, Virginia.
> Focus on the academic pipeline. Examples: Oklahoma.
> The economic payoffs can be big. Examples: California, Ohio, Maryland.
> Deliver or people will lose interest. Examples: Michigan, Oklahoma.
> Federal government champions can unlock lots of doors. Examples: Maryland, Ohio, Alabama.

Applying Lessons to New York

> Our state government support is sorely lacking.
> Our levels of interconnectedness and mutual reinforcement are lacking.
> We have the Universities and the civic infrastructure of other states, that’s not our weakness.
> We had the industry footprint, and while activity does remain, it lacks the support to truly grow.
> Large, dynamic projects like a spaceport could be possible here, once these gaps are addressed.

State-by-State Analysis



Washington State is home to a booming space and aerospace sector dominated by major private sector companies new and old, with robust reinforcing connections to academia and civic society. Although it is not now and will likely never be a launch site, the state has developed a major presence in the satellite and rocket manufacturing chains and is a critical supplier to the broader US space ecosystem.

Washington’s space ecosystem is undergoing explosive growth, doubling in size from 2018 to 2021. Employment jumped from 6,000+ to 13,000+ while economic activity jumped from $1.8 billion to $4.6 billion, all in just 3 years. This My cool link generates $80 million in annual state tax revenue and supports an annual payroll of $1.6 billion dollars.

This growth came about due to a holistic blend of private sector innovation, academic , civic society engagement, and government support. This comprehensive and robust network has allowed Washington to develop a powerhouse space sector with minimal NASA presence, no spaceport prospects, and little by the way of US military impact.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 11th (4,622)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 9th ($1.062 billion)

The Washington space industry is diverse and robust, full of companies both old and new, large and small. The explosive growth in jobs and economic activity in recent years is possible due to the resiliency and depth of the private sector in the state.

Blue Origin is a major player in the suborbital rocketry market, dominating the headlines of the space tourism boom alongside SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Their headquarters, along with the vast majority of their research and engineering capability, is located at their almost 1,000,000 sq/ft facility in Kent, outside of Seattle.

SpaceX has been continually expanding its Redmond facility over the past few years as it ramps up the local production of its Starlink satellites. Amazon has also opened a facility in Redmond for production of its Project Kuiper satellite operation.

Washington is also home to a dominant satellite manufacturing industry. As of Jan 1st, 2022 roughly 38% of all satellites in orbit had at least some parts manufactured in the state of Washington. LeoStella is a growing Washington-based player in this field, driving innovation in the smallsat field as a joint venture between Thales Alena Aerospace and BlackSky Ventures.

The legacy aerospace industry maintains a significant footprint in the state. Boeing has maintained and grown a presence in Everett, Washington since 1943 that includes the largest building in the world by volume. Boeing employs over 56,000 in the state, although that is down from over 72,000 just in 2019.

It’s important to note that there are very few major NASA or US Military facilities in the state, leaving the Washington space ecosystem almost completely composed of private companies, academic institutions, and state government partners. This has given the space industry in the state a decidedly innovative and entrepreneurial bent.


Washington is home to the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation (JCATI), a State Legislature sponsored program that provides funding for public 4-year institutions to move advanced aerospace research to production. Since 2012 JCATI has provided almost $13 million in funding to 153 projects in a wide range of aerospace related fields.

Washington is also home to significant rocket production capability. In 2019, Aerojet Rocketdyne celebrated the production of its 20,000th rocket at its Redmond, Washington location. The site offers a wide variety of production options and has a 95% on-time delivery performance.

Washington State has never really become a player in the spaceport conversation, with a Lockheed Martin proposal in 2000 never gaining any steam. Grant County did conduct an economic impact study, but the Lockheed project never went forward, and the project never garnered any additional interest. Radian Aerospace is developing a spaceplane concept, and conducted a rocket test at their site at the Bremerton Airport in 2017, but there is no indication their planes include launching from Washington itself.

Government Involvement

The growth of the aerospace industry in Washington would not have been possible without significant attention and investment from government leaders in the Legislature and Governors’ Offices. Informed and lobbied by civic and private industry groups, government partners have played a critical role in attracting new investment and creating jobs in the Washington aerospace industry.

The Washington State Legislature has been strongly supportive of the aerospace sector in the state due to its significant economic impact and the number of jobs supported throughout the state. The Legislature created JCATI, the aerospace research hub that has provided over $13 million to over 150 aerospace projects at 4-year universities in the state. In 2020 the Legislature re-authorized the program for another 10-years, demonstrating its enduring support among Washington lawmakers. The Legislature has repeatedly authorized incentives and special projects that benefit the aerospace industry, acknowledging the critical role the sector plays in the state’s economy.

In 2012 Governor Christine Gregoire established the Office of Aerospace to promote efforts to grow the aerospace industry, and the office continued to play a role under her successors. Governor’s regularly outline broad proposals for the state’s aerospace sector, holding summits and prioritizing aerospace during state budget sessions.

This long-term government involvement in the sector explains its robust growth. For example in 2012 Governor Gregoire established a commission to study the skills gap in the aerospace industry and how to correct it. The group remains active to this day, publishing reports, facilitating aerospace apprenticeship programs, and encouraging the development of new academic programs. This is a perfect example of government, academic, and industry operating in perfect symbiosis.

Academics & Civic Society

The University of Washington Space Policy & Research Center serves as a focal point of space policy, networking, and higher education in the state, a pivotal role in a space ecosystem driven by private companies and not major government anchors. Their department of Aeronautics & Astronautics offers a diverse array of courses and student programming, including the Space Systems research cluster and the NASA Lunar Rover Challenge. The UW Astrobiology program offers a robust exploration of the potential for life off of the Earth, a unique offering that many other regions lack.

The University is also home to SPARC, the Space Policy and Research Center, which serves as an “interdisciplinary hub of faculty, researchers, policymakers, organizations and facilities operating at the intersection of technology, science, and policy in the Pacific Northwest.” SPARC is organized by the UW Jackson School of International Studies, which also hosts the Outer Space Initiative, a regional forum of space professionals on issues related to outer space security.

The Washington Space Grant Consortium is based at the University of Washington with the objective of enhancing opportunities for students pursuing education in STEM and space related fields. It has been in operation since 1989, providing decades of academic support as the aerospace industry boomed around the state.

There is a highly active civic society component to the Washington space ecosystem that has lobbied and advocated for various projects over the years and is a key reason for the holistic development of the state’s space sector. Space Entrepreneurs is a Seattle based organization that sponsors industry connections and networking events. The Washington State Space Coalition serves as a key industry networker and facilitator as it holds meetings, conducts surveys, and raises the public profile of the space industry as a whole.

The Washington Aerospace Partnership was established to bring together academic, business, and government leaders to secure the future of the aerospace industry in the state that is now turning its attention to new sectors like commercial space. Space Northwest is another active non-profit that “connects, educates and inspires individuals, corporations, and communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond to foster Space Innovation and Exploration for the benefit of life on Earth and our future in space.”

It is quite clear that Washington possesses an incredibly robust and active community space network, a key signal of a health space ecosystem.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Washington space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Building symbiotic relationships between private industry, academia, and state government can successfully grow an aerospace sector absent significant NASA or US military presence.
> Creating hubs based around these symbiotic relationships can quickly spiral into significant growth as competitors seek out new talent pools and new resources.
> Support from civic society organizations is critically important to growing the aerospace sector as it motivates government interest and can create important opportunities for networking and collaboration.



Michigan is a state seemingly poised for growth in the space and aerospace sector, but hurdles remain and previous development in the state has been uneven. Lead by powerhouse university programs, Michigan is firmly established as an aerospace player, yet historically this academic prowess has not translated into significant job creation or investment in major projects like spaceports.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 23rd (785)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 23rd ($143 million)

Michigan is often referred to as a "sleeping giant" with a strong industrial base, hundreds of aerospace suppliers, and a business-friendly tax policy that often leads Michigan to be ranked as one of the best states for aerospace in the entire Midwest.

The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) tracks 189 members on its website, a mix of companies large and small that represent a cross-section of Michigan’s aerospace industry. Firms like Michigan Aerospace serve as leaders in their community, a critical role in an industry still struggling with issues of diversity and access.


Public discussion about a spaceport project in Michigan began in 2019, with the MAMA proposal for both a polar orbit vertical launch site and a horizontal launch site gaining media steam and public scrutiny. The proposal leaned on Michigans’ automotive and heavy industry history, a strong aerospace supply chain network, and the expanse of Lake Superior to facilitate polar launches towards Canada. MAMA provides detailed spaceport information under the umbrella of the Michigan Launch Initiative.

One potential early obstacle noted for the Michigan project is distance from existing rocket suppliers, which would be true of many other jurisdictions far from the typical rocket production sites in the Southeast and West Coast. Shipping rocket parts to far northern Michigan could become a costly hurdle for the project to overcome, with lessons for other potential spaceport projects far from traditional production regions.

In 2020 the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport was announced as the finalist of a statewide site analysis with its long runway (11,800ft), rural location, and proximity to Lake Huron making it an ideal site. Later that year a site north of Marquette on the Upper Peninsula was announced as the finalist for a vertical launch site that would launch small rockets into polar orbits over Lake Superior.

In 2021 the Chippewa International Airport was selected as the Command and Control Center for the spaceport project, the final component of MAMA’s three-part spaceport proposal.

As of 2022 there are no specific updates at any site in terms of development timetables.

Government Involvement

The Michigan Legislature has shown support for the aerospace industry in the state, and the spaceport project specifically. In 2019 they did authorize $2 million for a state grant to study potential spaceport sites. It’s important to note that this support has been bi-partisan, with members of both parties speaking out in favor of spaceport projects in their districts. In 2022 multiple state legislators traveled to Florida to meet with space industry leaders (including SpaceX) to pitch Michigan as a potential investment site. However certain state legislators have begun raising concerns about the spaceport project, raising the potential for more political complications ahead.

The sector has received federal support as well, with Members of Congress have spoken out in favor of the spaceport project.

Academics & Civic Society

The University of Michigan has a globally recognized Aerospace Engineering program, annually graduating students that fill the ranks of NASA and private space companies around the US. The school is also home to the Institute of Research in Astrophysics and the University of Michigan Space Institute. These programs are how the University of Michigan earned its reputation as a powerhouse space university.

Much of the political activity and lobbying in the state is driven by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, which is devoted to any and all proposals to grow the aerospace footprint in the state, including their much heralded spaceport project.

The spaceport project has motivated organized groups groups in both support and opposition, with environmental concerns at the Lake Superior site being among the most prominent sources of opposition while job creation is the rallying cry for supporters. This opposition made national news in 2022, as community residents on the Upper Peninsula opposed the vertical launch site, citing lack of consultation from MAMA and environmental concerns around the launch site. There has also been mounting criticism of MAMA for its lack of follow through at the Oscoda site and uncertainty about the foundations and backing of the organization.

The Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan is also active in the state, holding events that network within the industry and promote the state to potential investors.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Michigan space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Community consultation is critically important at every single stage of the spaceport project lifecycle. Failure to acknowledge this is often fatal.
> Bi-partisan government support can be built for spaceport projects, but begins to fray under stress.
> Michigan proves it is possible to build interest and make concrete steps on a spaceport project in a non-coastal, Northern state.



Texas has been at the center of space and aerospace in the United States since the dawn of the space age. The state is home to one of the largest aerospace sectors in the country, hosts a full-fledged spaceport network, and hosts some of the largest and most important NASA facilities.

Texas and space go hand in hand.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 2nd (41,937)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 2nd ($9.28 billion)

The aerospace industry in Texas is one of the largest in the nation, with over 140,000 workers and highly ranked in almost every industry metric, and 18 of the 20 largest aerospace companies in the US have some presence in Texas. Major players in the state’s space sector include SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, Firefly Aerospace, and L3Harris. This presence is felt statewide, with the Dallas-Fort Worth area home to more than twice the national average of aerospace workers, but clusters also in Waco, Wichita Falls, Amarillo, San Antonio, and Houston.

It’s possible to zoom in and explore the economic impact of the SpaceX operations at Boca Chica, which have been profound. SpaceX is now the largest private employer in the city, with over 1,600 workers as of early 2022. The gross economic impact for the city is estimated at $885 million, and the pace of growth is expected to continue as SpaceX expands rocket production in the area. The presence of the spaceport complex was a bonus for the city of Brownsville during the financial hit of the COVID pandemic, as tax revenues continued to grow despite projections of a loss.


Texas is home to a true spaceport ecosystem, with a diverse range of facilities offering various capabilities from every corner of the state.

Houston - Spaceport

The Houston Spaceport is the world’s first urban commercial spaceport, a significant development in the national spaceport network. Formerly Ellington Airport, the spaceport is located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. The site offers hundreds of acres in various states of development, brand new site infrastructure, and two state-of-the-art Category I ILS runways.

The site has been rapidly expanding since its inception. In 2019 the spaceport announced that Flight Safety International would be relocating from New York, relocating over 100 aerospace jobs to the site. Axiom Space broke ground on a new HQ, space station manufacturing, and astronaut training facility at the site in 2022, marking the first time a human-rated spacecraft will be constructed in Houston. Intuitive Machines, focused on expanding commercial presence on the Moon, is relocating to a new 125,000 facility at the spaceport in early 2023.

Houston - Space Center

The Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston has served as a hub of American human spaceflight missions for over half a century. The site occupies over 1,600 acres southeast of downtown Houston and is home to NASA mission control and astronaut training facilities. There are roughlyroughly 110 astronauts, 3,200 government employees, and 11,000 contractors who work at “Space City”, as Johnson is known. Johnson is also home to the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility, which is home to the vast majority of the material NASA has gathered from the Moon.

Roughly half of JSC’s contracted work goes to Texas-based companies, to the tune of roughly $2.3 billion dollars annually. This is a significant portion of NASA’s $4.7 billion annual economic impact on the state of Texas, as well as a significant hub for NASA’s 52,000 workers in the state.

Van Horn - Corn Ranch

The Corn Ranch launch site is located in Van Horn, over 570 miles west of Houston, and serves as the launch site for Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. Owned by Jeff Bezos, testing began in 2006 and culminated in a successful crewed launch of the billionaire, and three other travelers in July 2021. By August of 2022 a total of six crewed flights had launched a total of 31 people above the Karman line, including the first people to visit space from nations such as Egypt and Portugal.

Van Horn serves as a perfect example of the double-edged sword that being a ‘spaceport town’ brings. Benefits include increased economic activity from tourists and Blue Origin employees, an increase in home values, and a national and international focus on the town that had previously never existed. Concerns and downsides include a reduction of available housing for local residents, increased traffic, and the reality that not everyone wants to live in a town that’s internationally famous.


The McGregor site is a SpaceX facility roughly halfway between Austin and Dallas and just miles 15 from downtown Waco. While the SpaceX facilities in California and South Texas are far more prominent, this facility serves as the primary rocket engine testing and development site for the entire company. Every rocket that SpaceX flies into space will at some point pass through the McGregor facility.

Boca Chica - Starbase

As SpaceX grew throughout the 2000s and 2010s they began searching for a dedicated rocket development and launch facility. In 2014 after a nationwide search SpaceX announced that Boca Chica (near Brownsville) at the southern tip of Texas would serve as the host of their new non-governmental launch complex. This site would be home to the company's dedicated launch operations, including their new super heavy lift rocket Starship.

The site made significant progress once ground was broken, and was conducting testing on the Starhopper prototype by 2019. Later that year SpaceX confirmed that the Boca Chica site would serve as the construction site for Starship Super Heavy boosters as the site continued to expand. By 2021 SpaceX had surged employees from other areas of the country to Boca Chica and had achieved a full stack of the Starship rocket. The FAA cleared the last of any environmental regulatory hurdles in June of 2022 with some remedial actions for SpaceX to complete.

When SpaceX completes these actions the site will be licensed to conduct Starship launches from Texas. Musk has made it very clear that Boca Chica is critical to his plan to settle Mars, positioning Texas to play a critical role in this exciting and transformative vision.


The Midland Air & Spaceport is the 1st and only FAA-certified spaceport co-located with a commercial airport. Located in West Central Texas, the spaceport is certified for both launch and re-entry, making it an attractive location for a wide range of clients. There is a large business park available for development, with Kepler Aerospace and AST SpaceMobile as the anchor tenants. Attached to a fully functional regional airport with service links throughout the Southwest, Midland Air & Spaceport remains a unique addition to the Texas spaceport network.

Government Involvement

The City of Houston is deeply involved with the spaceport, with the facility administered under the Department of Aviation. The City Council has also been supportive, including in 2021 when they upgraded the Houston Spaceport Development Corporation to enable it to receive millions of dollars in state funding.

Texas offers a broad array of programs at the state level that support the commercial space and aerospace industry. The state offered $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund to lure SpaceX to Boca Chica, and added $5 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to Cameron County Spaceport Development Fund to support the project. Elon Musk himself testified in front of the Texas Legislature in 2013 to support the project, and the Legislature passed bills allowing beaches to be closed near the site as well as tweaks to the legal liability laws, adding “spaceport noise” as a legal activity. The state government announced another $10 million for the Spaceport Trust Fund in January 2022, to be split between Houston and Cameron County.

Academics & Civic Society


Texas grants roughly 10,000 new aviation and aerospace related degrees every year, a prolific amount that feeds the explosive private sector growth throughout the state. From 2015 through 2019 Texas universities dedicated over $1.8 billion to aerospace research, with Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin responsible for more than half of that total.

The Edge Center at the Houston Spaceport was developed in 2019 by San Jacinto College, and offers aerospace programming to students in both virtual and on-site formats.

The SpaceX Boca Chica facility is having a positive impact on the educational opportunities available in Brownsville. The STARGATE project is a joint venture between the University of Texas system and the City of Brownsville with support from SpaceX and the federal government to allow students access to the RF frequencies used in spaceflight, creating a unique and invaluable resource for students in South Texas.

Civic Society

Boca Chica exemplifies both the pros and cons of hosting a booming spaceport. There have been numerous complaints and concerns from neighbors surrounding SpaceX’s Boca Chica site, including heavy truck traffic endangering residents and SpaceX personnel trespassing on private property. In 2021 the Cameron County District Attorney threatened to sue SpaceX and its employees for illegally carrying firearms and well over the legally permitted amount of beach and road closures. Yet when Musk wanted to scale up production, the site held two days of impromptu hiring sessions where over 250 were hired, mostly locals.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Texas space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Urban spaceports are not only possible, but when done right they can positively flourish.
> Strong synergies between government, private sector, and academia are critical for fueling space sector growth.
> Strong financial support from the state government is important.
> It is important to minimize negative impacts on local residents, although such opposition is not always determinative.
> Spaceport projects can take a while to build up, but when they do they can become significant sources of local economic activity.



Colorado is home to dual space legacies. Home to the roots of the aerospace and defense industry, the state hosts three Space Force Bases and a wealth of legacy aerospace and defense industry knowledge and resources. It is also home to a growing spaceport right outside metro Denver, offering tantalizing new opportunities for the state to become a major player in the New Space economy.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 7th (26,255)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 7th ($5.024 billion)

Colorado is home to the second largest aerospace industry of any state in the US, and the largest per capita. In 2019, when the spaceport project was getting underway, the aerospace private sector employment was over 26,000, and the military aerospace employment was over 28,000. Defense is a major component of the aerospace sector in Colorado, by some measures 80% of aerospace work in the state is defense related. Schriever Space Force Base alone employs over 8,000 and contributes $1.3 billion to the Colorado Springs economy.

The Colorado spaceport project has attracted new space companies to Colorado as the site builds into a new space & aerospace hub. UK-based Reaction Engines built an engine test facility there in 2017, creating at least a dozen new jobs in the state. There are also MOU’s for future development and testing with Japan-based PD Aerospace and New Zealand-based Dawn Aerospace. These are just a few of the examples of the growing international aerospace footprint in Colorado, with companies from as far away as Luxembourg and Norway investing in the state’s booming aerospace industry. The spaceport also has a contract in place to begin point-to-point suborbital travel with Spaceport Cornwall in the UK when the technology eventually comes online.

In the last 5 years Colorado’s aerospace industry employment has grown by 30%, resulting in the highest concentration of aerospace talent in the United States. It is clear the space and aerospace sector in Colorado is large, diverse, growing rapidly, and capable of anchoring significant components of the New Space economy.


In 2011, then-Governor (now-Senator) John Hickenlooper announced the state had filed an application with the FAA to host a specially licensed spaceport. In 2018 the FAA finally approved the site operator license for the Colorado Air & Space Port, bringing to life a spaceport project just 25 miles outside of downtown Denver. This 7 year gap between application and approval was longer than expected and serves as a cautionary tale for other spaceport projects.

The former feeder airport for nearby Denver International Airport is home to two 8,000 ft runways, and has conducted over 75,000 aircraft operations since 2019 (mostly private and tourist flights). The facility serves multiple purposes as it slowly transforms from a regional feeder airport into a global spaceport. It serves as an aerospace hub for a growing collection of companies both new and old to Colorado.

In 2014 the previous airport authority was dissolved and site ownership transferred to Adams County, which dramatically increased rates of flight traffic and site operations. In 2022 the spaceport appointed a new director, promising a new chapter of growth and development.

The spaceport serves as a focusing agent for space sector development in the state. The creation of the project brought a diverse coalition of groups together, and growing the project and attracting outside interest has drawn even more groups into the mix.

Government Involvement

Colorado is home to a significant presence by the US Air Force & Space Force, making the US military an outsized player in the Colorado space and aerospace sector. Colorado is home to Peterson Space Force Base, Buckley Space Force Base, Schriever Space Force Base, and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, home to NORAD and other intensely top-secret US military command operations.

The Colorado political establishment has been strongly supportive of the spaceport project, at the local state and federal levels. After Governor Hickenlooper (D) announced the spaceport application in 2011, the federal Congressional delegation announced bi-partisan, unanimous support for the project.

The FAA conducted an environmental review process in 2018 that included an extensive public comment and feedback process. There was both opposition and support for the project from a broad cross-section of the community, including private citizens, businesses, and government officials.

It is important to note that the spaceport project was not without strong opposition. The application process took much longer than anticipated due to resistance from rural communities underneath the launch path, concerned about debris and impacts on local farming and cattle communities. Over 100 community sessions were held to listen to and eventually dispel these concerns, a critically important example of how to diffuse community opposition to projects.

Academics & Civic Society

The Colorado Space Business Roundtable (CSBR) has been networking and promoting the Colorado space & aerospace sector for almost 20 years. They were strong early proponents of the spaceport project, and serve as a key focal point for the incredibly active Colorado space community. Groups like the Colorado Space Coalition and Colorado Citizens for Space Exploration demonstrate the uniquely active civic space coalition in the state. CSBR also sponsors an Aerospace Teachers Academy and a Summer Internship Program, critical pathways for young people to pursue opportunities in space.

The University of Colorado at Boulder is a space academia powerhouse, playing a key role in the recent growth in the states’ space economy. The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics “delivers the future of space science”, and the school has ties to almost two dozen astronauts.

These civic and academic institutions were critically important during the inception and growth of the spaceport project, and are deeply intertwined with the aerospace industry throughout the state.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Colorado space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Even with bi-partisan support from the highest levels of state government, spaceport projects can take years from inception to licensing. Be patient.
> A diverse, high-functioning coalition of academic, community, business, and government stakeholders can provide long-term stability and attract outside interest in a state’s space ecosystem.
> Military and defense applications can provide critically important funding, stability, and support for space projects.



New Mexico holds a unique position in the American space ecosystem. Huge amounts of open land resulted in a high density of military bases that led to a uniquely defense-focused aerospace industry. This same expansive military airspace and existing aerospace industry was the reason the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport was constructed in New Mexico. This spaceport has served as a magnet for further space and aerospace development in the state, although this growth has not come without controversy.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 21st (855)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 21st ($178 million)

New Mexico is home to significant federal space and aerospace assets, including the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the US Space Force Innovation & Prototyping Directorate (IPD), the Army White Sands Missile Range, and the Los Alamos National Laboratories. NASA’s White Sands Test Facility has played a role in testing spacecraft engines since the days of Apollo, and continues to play a role in every crewed NASA mission to this day.

This defense industry focus has served as the foundation for the aerospace sector in the state, with the major research facilities serving as attractors for aerospace companies from around the country. New Mexico’s workforce has one of the highest % of STEM workers, and over 60 space companies operate throughout the state.


Spaceport America is the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, and has been launching vehicles into space since 2007. Its anchor tenant is Virgin Galactic, which moved its full operation to the site in 2019 and has been developing its suborbital launch vehicle there in the hopes of leading a new era in civilian access to space, which they achieved in May of 2021 with the 1st human launch to space from Spaceport America. This made New Mexico the 3rd state to have launched humans into space. Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson was aboard the first flight, vowing to usher in a new era of suborbital space travel from New Mexico.

The spaceport hosts a 12,000 ft runway, and has access to over 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace in which to launch, courtesy of the adjacent White Sands Missile Range. The full complex offers a wide range of services including manufacturing and testing capabilities. After early years of struggling with low activity, the site now hosts roughly a dozen tenants and customers in addition to Virgin Galactic, including Spin Launch, UP Aerospace, and the US Air Force Thunderbirds. This diversification is an important lesson and was a crucial development in the evolution of the spaceport.

Government Involvement

The space sector has received significant support from local state and federal elected leaders. Senator Martin Heinrich has been a regular advocate for space, attending the 2021 NewSpace New Mexico summit and securing $11 million in federal funds in 2020 and 2021 for Spaceport America.

Spaceport America would not exist without the New Mexico state government, which not only paid the entire $212 million price tag for construction, but provides management and oversight via the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

The management of Spaceport America has undergone significant periods of churn and controversy over the lifetime of the project. One early Director was forced to resign under political pressure as the Governor’s mansion switched parties. There has been a constant drumbeat of criticism of both the cost of the project and the state government’s management.

Scandal erupted in 2020 when the Spaceport Director was ousted after a state investigation into abuse of funds and fiscal mismanagement. This opened the project to criticism of a lack of transparency and secretive administration, fueled by the passage of a law that allowed the spaceport to shield some records from Open Meeting law requirements.

This “race to the bottom” narrative surrounding the legal pressures on state’s that host spaceports is not new, and the disturbing allegations in this saga have only furthered that narrative. The spaceport promoted a new Director in early 2021 in the hopes of turning a new page and closing what had been a tumultuous period for spaceport leadership.

Academics & Civic Society

New Mexico is home to very active and beneficial space advocacy organizations that serve to network the space assets in the state and attract outside interest. NewSpace New Mexico is one such organization, and they conduct quarterly industry forums that have served to identify obstacles for growth. The Unite & Ignite initiative has paired governmental, industry, and civic sector organizations together to promote the New Mexico space sector, with support from federal and state officials.

Spaceport America offers a wide range of educational programming, including virtual internships, a video library for students of all ages, and tours for classrooms nationwide. They also host the world's largest Intercollegiate rocket engineering competition and conference, the Spaceport America Cup. The University of New Mexico complements these programs by offering a degree in Aerospace Engineering, as well as a Masters in Space System Engineering.

Lessons for New York

The study of the New Mexico space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Even flagship projects with massive state government support take decades to come to fruition.
> Diversification is an essential component of a successful spaceport project.
> There are legal pitfalls and landmines to avoid in developing a spaceport, as external pressures and laws in other states will almost certainly generate pressures for similar legislation.
> Transparency is critically important and is a key component of public perception of spaceport projects.



Alabama is a space state with a long and proud history in space, having served as the original home of the US rocket program that eventually took America to the stars. For over 80 years the state, and particularly the Huntsville region, has been dominated by an expansive space and aerospace industry that is critically important to the entire national rocket ecosystem.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 3rd (41,084)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 3rd ($8.03 billion)

The aerospace and space industry in Alabama is a significant part of Alabama’s recent history, and has a profound impact on the states’ economy. Over 61,000 people are employed in aerospace and defense statewide, and over 3,600 aerospace engineers call Alabama home, among the Top 5 in the US. The My cool link rate in Huntsville has dropped as low as 2% in recent years, an unheard of level, and employment grew 32% from 2000 to 2017, double the national average.

Northern Alabama is where the space sector is most heavily concentrated in the state, with the undoubted hub being Huntsville, known as “Rocket City”. The origins of this began in World World Two with the establishment of the Redstone Arsenal in 1941. Captured German scientists as a part of Operation Paperclip were stationed at Redstone, where they developed ballistic missiles until they eventually went on to join the original staff at NASA. It was this team that launched Explorer 1, putting Huntsville at the very inception of the US space program.

In 1960 NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center was formed at the site, where they developed the Saturn boosters for the Apollo missions to the Moon and continue developing the most advanced rockets in the world for NASA. This relationship was so deep that the end of the Apollo program caused a recession in the city, but the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station, and eventually the recent Artemis moon missions maintained and eventually grew the space sector in Huntsville.

The region is now home to roughly 400 aerospace firms, including many national heavyweights. Aerojet Rocketdyne opened their Advanced Manufacturing Facility there in 2019, growing their local workforce from 70 to over 400 in just 6 years. Blue Origin opened an engine factory in Huntsville in 2020, adding 300 jobs and an investment of over $200 million. United Launch Alliance, located in nearby Decatur, has produced Alabama-made rockets for dozens of NASA missions, including the Curiosity rovers to Mars. The site opened in 1999 and currently employs over 1,000 people.

In 2021 the Secretary of the Air Force recommended Huntsville as the new headquarters for the US Space Force, citing the strong aerospace industry and the highly educated local talent pool. A final decision is expected sometime in 2023.


The Marshall Space Flight Center is home to the Propulsion and Structural Test Facility (PSTF) which has conducted large single-stage rocket testing since 1957. This is a massive structure, 175 feet tall with an accompanying gantry that can lift 45 tons. In 1985 the site was declared a National Historic Landmark for its contributions to the US space program.

In 2022 it was announced that Sierra Nevada Corp. had received FAA approval to land their Dream Chaser space plane at the Huntsville International Airport. The company has targeted 2023 for the first landings in the state, ushering in a new era of spacecraft landing at commercial airports.

Government Involvement

The Alabama Space Authority was created in 2017 to promote research and development in space across the state, and includes members from major universities and businesses. They conduct roundtables, network with stakeholders, and promote the industry to potential investors.

Alabama Governor’s have strongly supported the aerospace industry, recognizing the state’s legacy and the immense economic impact it has on the state. The Governor was appointed to the National Space Council Advisory Group in 2018, a major coup for the state.

In 2021 Alabama Senator Richard Shelby announced he would retire, a blow to the state’s space influence in Washington D.C. Over his decades in the Senate he relentlessly advocated for Alabama’s role in the space sector, bringing in significant federal funding for space projects in the state.

Academics & Civic Society

Alabama is keenly aware of the importance of aerospace to their economic success, and has tailored the academic offerings (both formal and informal) to bolstering the STEM pipeline from schools to colleges and eventually industry.

The US Space & Rocket Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Museum and hosts one of the largest collections of space and rocket memorabilia in the world. It is Alabama’s most popular tourist attraction and offers an astounding array of programs, including one of the only intact Saturn V rockets, a flight simulator, and a suite of educational resources.

The Huntsville area is also home to Space Camp, a dream of German-turned-American rocket engineer Werner von Braun. Launched in 1982 the camp has welcomed over 900,000 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries to participate in a wide range of space themed programs. Major programs include a week-long on-site Space Camp, a robotics camp, and the ability to organize custom programs suited to specific organizations and schools.

Alabama hosts a robust higher education network that feeds the pipeline of workers necessary to support the state’s aerospace industry. Auburn University, Tuskegee University, and the University of Alabama all offer advanced aerospace degrees geared towards supporting the companies located in the state. Calhoun Community College offers a unique Associate of Applied Sciences degree in Structures, Assembly, and Welding that seeks to fill the necessary (but often overlooked) technical support roles that are critical to a thriving aerospace industry. The academic sphere is supported by the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, which partners with all My cool link major research institutions in the state and promotes a wide range of academic space programs.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Alabama space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Robust local space ecosystems with good foundations can survive project cancellations and other road bumps.
> A comprehensive statewide academic network that includes both formal and informal space education programs at all levels of academia can be a powerful pipeline of talent and energy into a local space ecosystem.
> Space ecosystems take time to build, but when they mature they can absolutely transform the local economy in profound and beneficial ways.



Virginia is home to the most complex and productive space ecosystem on the US East Coast outside of Florida. The state is home to the 2nd busiest spaceport in the country, a booming aerospace sector, and a highly engaged and supportive state government.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 6th (32,739)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 6th ($6.8 billion)

The story of the aerospace industry in Virginia is largely one of steady growth in recent decades, with the MARS project injecting additional energy and potential in the sector. In the last decade Virginia has attracted new aerospace projects that have created 4,700 jobs and generated over $1.4 billion in economic activity.

The spaceport complex has a profound economic impact on Virginia, with a 2019 study finding that the project supported over 1,900 direct jobs generating over $145 million in salary benefits. The entire complex has an annual impact of over $1.4 billion dollars, and indirectly supported 4,000 additional jobs, making the spaceport a significant component of the broader Virginia economy.

In early 2022 Rocketlab announced Virginia as the site of a new manufacturing hub that will create 250 jobs. The Virginia Department of Economic Development aggressively highlights the aerospace industry in the state and markets numerous sites around the state to outside companies looking to relocate. The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) is a technology accelerator that has supported various aerospace projects throughout the state. The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) is another organization that has provided significant support to the Virginia aerospace sector, specifically those companies working in the field of unmanned vehicles.


Virginia is home to the most advanced spaceport infrastructure on the US East Coast outside of Florida. The states’ spaceport capabilities are located on Wallops Island
, a coastal barrier island on the eastern shore of the Delmarva Peninsula. There are multiple components that make up Virginia’s spaceport capabilities, and the site has evolved in numerous distinct phases in recent decades.

NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility is a lower cost alternative to NASA’s other East Coast launch facility at Cape Canaveral. The site supports military, civilian, and government operations and a wide-range of mission types, from smaller vertical rockets to unmanned aerial vehicles.

Development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the Wallops Island site began in 1997 with a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA that gave the site access to NASA resources and the ability to build on government property. The site has two launch pads, one small-class and one medium-class, as well as a runway for unmanned aerial testing. It is a full-service launch facility and includes integration, payload processing, and launch and control facilities.

The site was originally intended to become economically self-sufficient, but has required budget support from the state government since its inception. The site developed slowly until 2007 when regular launches began courtesy of Orbital Sciences (later Orbital ATK, which was then purchased by Northrop Grumman). Even though the customer base has grown and diversified and the MARS site hosts the 2nd most launches in the US (outside of Florida’s Cape Canaveral), the site is not economically self-sufficient and most project participants admit it likely never will be.

Government Involvement

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport would not exist without strong backing from federal politicians from both parties and from both Virginia and Maryland. Former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski was a strong proponent of space exploration and when NASA was rumored to be shutting down the Wallops Island facility in the mid-1990s she almost single-handedly kept it open.

The Virginia State Government remains the single largest source of income for MARS, with an annual contribution ranging from $15-$35 million. After the results of a comprehensive outside report, in 2012 both chambers of the General Assembly passed legislation that reconstituted the Spaceport Authority, improved governance and oversight, and reformed the financing for the project. This included mandating the production of Strategic Plans every 5 years, which MARS did in 2012 and again in 2022. These strategic plans have helped stabilize the spaceport project and diversify its customer base, exemplified by the attraction of New Zealand based Rocket Lab to open a new manufacturing and launch complex at MARS in 2022.

The state has also been generous with the economic incentives designed to build out the spaceport, with the “Zero Gravity, Zero Tax” program offering reduced state tax rates for companies that locate space operations in the state. MARS is also an Enterprise Zone, a Foreign Trade Zone, and benefits from the “Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act” which limits insurance risks for spaceflight operators in the state. The Virginia Department of Economic Development aggressively highlights the aerospace industry in the state and markets numerous sites around the state to outside companies looking to relocate.

Academics & Civic Society

Virginia has a well developed academic and civic support network that enhances the MARS project and the entire Virginia space ecosystem.

Virginia’s Old Dominion University (ODU) plays a significant role in the MARS project, and serves as one of the primary partners alongside NASA and the states of Virginia and Maryland. ODU’s Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology provides critical technology and engineering support to the complex, and is a pipeline of new talent for the project.

Virginia Tech is also no stranger to the space ecosystem, with an active Rocketry team that competes in the annual Spaceport America Cup, and an Aerospace Department that serves as another vital pipeline for fresh academic talent.

The Wallops Island complex is home to more than just launch pads and runways. The site is also home to the Virginia Spaceflight Academy, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to expanding space education opportunities in the state by way of summer camps, a STEM academy, and other unique programming.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Virginia space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> State government support is critically important and often determinative in the success (or failure) of a spaceport project.
> A diversified foundation increases the resilience and economic viability of the aerospace sector and sets the stage for growth.
> Key infrastructure projects, like spaceports, can anchor growth and attract outside investment when executed successfully.



Georgia is home to a large and vibrant aerospace industry, and possesses high wattage complementary academic resources. This foundation served to inspire a prominent spaceport project, one that has attracted new businesses to the region as well as significant (and potentially fatal) public opposition.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 31st (462)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 31st ($89 million)

The aerospace industry is a primary component of the Georgia economy, with over 800 companies employing over 140,000 throughout the state. This high level of aerospace activity is a significant motivation behind the Camden County Spaceport, as Georgia and Camden County in particular have uniquely high concentrations of activity compared to national averages. In 2021 Georgia ranked 4th nationwide in the PWC Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness Rankings.

The spaceport project has served to attract space business to the Georgia coast, even with the significant amount of project uncertainty. ABL Space Systems relocated to Camden County in 2018, and Opifex Global signed an MOU to build an astronaut training facility there in 2020. Camden County signed an MOU with Alaska Aerospace to share expertise in 2020. A study by Georgia Southern University found the spaceport could generate up to $22 million in annual economic activity for Georgia.


Spaceport Camden is a civilian spaceport proposal on Georgia’s Atlantic coast. Proponent's point to the site’s wide range of launch directions, the significant size of the Georgia aerospace sector, and lack of significant development nearby as positives for the project. The fact that NASA tested rocket engines on the site in the 1960's was a source of pride for project advocates, yet NASA eventually left town when they selected a different rocket type, and sold the property. A horrific accident in 1971 killed 29 employees and the site lay dormant ever since.

The project began serious development as a spaceport in 2014, with County officials strongly advocating for the project as a way to attract jobs and investment to the rural coastal community. Vector Launch performed a test launch from the site in 2017, and the spaceport was granted its operator license by the FAA in December 2021.

Government Involvement

The Georgia State Government has proven to be a strong supporter of the spaceport project, endorsing it at various points throughout the development process. In 2017 the Legislature passed a bill limiting the liability of any company involved in launching a spaceship from Georgia. The bill passed the Assembly 151-6, demonstrating the bi-partisan popularity of the legislation.

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor and most of the state’s Members of Congress have publicly praised the spaceport project at various times as well, demonstrating its relevance to the highest levels of the states’ political establishment.

The major proponents of the spaceport project have been the County level leaders, who latched onto the project in 2014 as an economic development engine and have been unflinching in their support of it, even in the face of 3-to-1 election defeats at the hands of local voters.

Academics & Civic Society

Georgia academics have a significant presence in the space sector. The University of Georgia saw a student-led satellite project launch in 2020, and the school is home to a prominent Space & Planetary Science Program. The Georgia Institute of Technology is home to the #1 Aerospace program in the nation according to the US News 2023 ranking, which integrates significantly with the prominent aerospace industry in the state.

The spaceport project has garnered significant and sustained opposition from some local residents, opposition that may have proven fatal to the project. There have been a diverse chorus of concerns raised, from risks to endangered sea turtle populations to fire risks on an island in the projected launch corridors. Neighbors complain about a lack of consultation and dismissiveness by local project authorities that has fed further opposition to the spaceport project, while project proponents argue the affected properties are second homes and the safety risks are minimal.

This opposition manifested itself in a very direct way when the spaceport project came up for a vote in March of 2022 when Camden County sought voter approval to purchase 4,000 acres for the spaceport. The vote failed by a convincing margin (72%-28%), and when County leaders moved to challenge the vote by appointing themselves to a previously vacant Board with the power to purchase the property (effectively ignoring the public rejection), the coalition in the Legislature supporting the project fractured. The project is now tangled up in multiple lawsuits as County leaders claim the vote was invalid while opponents claim the project is finished.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Georgia space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Public opposition can prove fatal to spaceport projects and must be a priority concern for any project. Consultation, adaptability, and positive outreach are necessary to negate opposition and establish trust and community buy-in.
> Buy-in from statewide leaders can go a long way towards accelerating a project in the face of hurdles. It is important for projects to demonstrate a statewide impact that results in broad, bi-partisan coalitions of support.



California is a space and aerospace heavyweight, an industry giant home to a dense web of universities, observatories, companies, and spaceports. This dynamic network demonstrates the potency that comes from robust connectivity between the private sector, academia, and government. California has all the attributes of a healthy space ecosystem, with many lessons and insights for those looking to jump start space sector growth elsewhere.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 1st (66,236)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 1st ($15.244 billion)

The average person may not realize that the aerospace sector in California is larger than the film, television, and agriculture industries combined. The state of California recognizes the importance of space & aerospace to the state’s overall economy, with over $200 million in tax credits and grants awarded to aerospace companies since 2019.

Overall the Aerospace & Defense sector has an annual economic impact of roughly $181 billion dollars in California and directly & indirectly supports over 820,000 jobs throughout the state. Los Angeles is a principal aerospace hub, referred to as one of the city’s “most dynamic sectors” that saw a 400% increase in space-related employment from 2010 to 2018. Major aerospace companies like Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Raytheon all have a presence in the Los Angeles area.

NASA has maintained a significant presence in California since its inception, a fact that impacts the wide aerospace industry to this day. The Armstrong Flight Research Center is NASA’s key facility for high-risk high-altitude research. The Ames Research Center is at the heart of Silicon Valley and serves as a key research, testing, and development center for the vast majority of NASA spacecraft.



The Vandenburg Space Force Base got its start as an Air Force base in 1941 and starting in 1957 evolved into the primary US rocket launch facility on the West Coast. Sitting on just shy of 100,000 acres, the base hosts 16 launch sites and maintains the 2nd longest runway in the Department of Defense at over 15,000 feet. The base has an impressive track record of ‘1sts’, including the 1st successful launch to polar orbit (1958), 1st GPS satellite launch (1978), hosting the world's 1st commercial spaceport (1996), and in September 2021 notched its 2,000th launch.

From 1972 until the Challenger disaster in 1986 Vandenberg received over $4 billion in upgrades in anticipation of becoming a West Coast launch site for the Space Shuttle. After 1986 the site was reconfigured to handle polar launches for the Delta and Atlas rockets for the following decades, with SpaceX eventually using the site to launch their Falcon 9 rockets.

Mojave & Edwards

The Mojave Air & Space Port was the 1st FAA-certified horizontal launch facility in the United States, an achievement notched in June of 2004. After its early years as a prominent military air base during World War II and the Korean War, the site spent decades as a prominent location for air racing and flight testing before becoming the place of spaceflight milestones.

Starting in the early 2000’s the airport began attracting interest from small space companies for testing and development purposes. The spaceport was where the Ansari X-Prize was won, a “race” to see who would develop the 1st private reusable suborbital launch system. Over the past two decades tenants have included XCOR Aerospace (which closed in 2017), Masten Space Systems (still active), and Virgin Galactic, which just announced a large expansion in September of 2022.

Located just 10 miles to the southeast is Edwards Air Force Base, which has its own rich history in the space industry. The base is home to NASA’s Armstrong Research Center, and served as a testing and landing site for Space Shuttle missions from 1981 through 2009.

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Space Force Base is home to the Space Systems Command, the oldest military space organization in the United States Armed Forces. Formed in 1954 to manage the nations ballistic missile program, it has evolved into the logistics, acquisition, and logistics field command organization that manages the nations space launch ranges.

Observatory Network

California boasts an impressive network of prominent Observatories that dot every region of the state. Mt. Wilson Observatory was founded in 1904 and was one of the earliest pioneers of 20th century astronomy. The world famous Griffith Observatory overlooking Los Angeles was one the first public observatories in the world and remains the most visited observatory in the world to this day. The Big Bear Solar Observatory is a unique set of instruments focused exclusively on the study of our Sun.

The Caltech Owens Valley Radio Observatory is one of the largest university-run radio observatories in the world where they study the Cosmic Dawn, gravitational waves, and extrasolar planets. Caltech also operates the iconic Palomar Observatory in San Diego that has been conducting transformative astronomical research since the 1930s.

The University of California Observatories network is centered on Lick Observatory, which began operation in 1888. Serving all 9 schools in the UC network as well as the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, the program focuses on developing new technologies and instruments for observational astronomy while providing educational opportunities to the general public.

Government Involvement

Despite the massive role the space & aerospace sectors play in California, the state currently lacks a statewide commission focused on the industry, unlike almost every other major space state. In 1996 the non-profit California Space & Technology Alliance was formed, which was recognized by the Legislature & Governor the next year as the official California Space Agency. The group was a major part of the California space sector, as was close to opening a California Space Center, when a lack of funding led to its dissolution in 2011. A bill to re-establish one has been passed by the Assembly and is currently awaiting approval by the Senate before it can be sent to the Governor for approval.

The California Legislature appears to appreciate the importance of space & aerospace, with both the Assembly and Senate having established committees focused on the sector (although the Senate committee hasn’t released anything publicly since 2018).

California Governors from both parties have promoted the space sector, demonstrating bi-partisan recognition of the economic and political benefits from boosting space in California. In 2009 then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger personally attended the ceremony at the Mojave Air & Spaceport where Virgin Galactic unveiled the 1st commercial space ship. In September 2022 Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new Space Industry Task Force to be led by the Office of Economic Development with the aim of “improv(ing) its position and harnessing future growth in the space industry.” This came after a June 2022 visit to Astra Space in Alameda to tout the space sector and promote a number of initiatives the state was taking to boost the space sector.

Despite the perplexing lack of a statewide governmental Space Authority, it is clear that major political and government actors in California acknowledge the importance of the space & aerospace sector to the health of the states’ economy.

Academics & Civic Society


Caltech is one of the most prominent global universities when it comes to space exploration, much of that generated by their inseparable partnership with NASA’s world-famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). This partnership began in the 1930's, when the university was involved in the early days of rocket research. In 1958 the JPL site was transferred from the Army to NASA to become the agency's only Federally Funded Research & Development Center, which is operated on its’ behalf by Caltech.

Starting in the 1960’s JPL began developing the spacecraft NASA would send to explore other planets, and the facility has played a role in almost every major interplanetary mission since. To maintain communications with an ever-expanding array of probes at increasingly distant locations JPL developed and operates NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international array of powerful radio telescopes.


The University of Southern California offers a number of programs that augment California’s academic space offerings. In addition to their programs in Astronautical Engineering and Aerospace, USC also operates the Space Engineering Research Center. This interesting program seeks to disrupt traditional space manufacturing and R&D with novel (and cheaper) innovations with a specific vision of developing a second-generation workforce that can contribute to the greatest challenges facing the space industry.

Cal Poly

California Polytechnic State University is located along California’s Central Coast, not far from Vandenburg Space Force Base. In 1999 the CubeSat Standard was developed at Cal Poly, a set of guidelines for the development and manufacturing of small satellites that was quickly adopted worldwide. CubeSats are still an active part of the university’s space portfolio, and the school is one of the largest sources of aerospace graduates in the state.


Stanford University is home to a number of impactful space and aerospace programs, many under the banner of the Aerospace & Astronautics Department. The Space Environment and Satellite Systems Laboratory (My cool link) is a key facility in understanding how the space environment impacts spacecraft. The Aerospace Design Laboratory studies a variety of aerospace design problems, including those affecting spacecraft. The Space Rendezvous Laboratory studies key issues relating to guidance and navigation of increasingly complex space networks. These are just a few examples of the numerous advanced space and aerospace programs underway at Stanford.


A truly unique academic offering is the California Aerospace Technologies Institute of Excellence (CATIE) in Long Beach. The program is a collaboration between the “aerospace industry, Air Force Research Laboratory, Mojave Air and Space Port, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and academic research institutions for emerging and advanced technology in space propulsion and responsiveness systems, including California State University Long Beach College of Engineering.” This nexus model, actively combining industry, government, and academia, is a key driver of dynamic growth in the aerospace sector and serves as a model for other states.

California Space Grant Consortium

The California Space Grant Consortium is active throughout the state, serving as a key supporter of the academic space ecosystem K-college. Their Higher Education portfolio is expansive, with a focus on mentorship programs and workforce development. Their Pre-College program includes more than a dozen programs to foster interest in aerospace that form their ‘STEM Pipeline’. They also offer Informal Education programs to engage the general public on issues of space and aerospace. This holistic approach is a strong example of a supportive non-profit environment that enhances the connectivity between academia and industry.

Central Coast

The Central Coast region of California offers a textbook example of a community building and executing a comprehensive plan to boost the local space sector. In 2019 a group of business leaders came together to create economic opportunities and boost job growth, and zeroed in on the Vandenburg spaceport as a key pillar of their plan. The three main objectives of the organization REACH were attracting new companies to the spaceport, upgrading local infrastructure to meet the spaceport’s needs, and expanding the local academic opportunities to support the new businesses.

When it came time for REACH to establish the MOU's for their vision in 2020 they “were joined by the Space Force, Cal Poly, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to carry the plan forward—the only coalition of its kind among spaceports. As the home county for Vandenberg Space Force Base, the County of Santa Barbara soon joined the MOU too.” The goal is to create 2,000 new jobs in the region every year, a signal of just how transformative properly executed space development programs can become.

This is a lesson to other communities around the country on how to grow a local space ecosystem. Comprehensive planning and stakeholder engagement fosters a mutually beneficial cycle of growth and attracts new business and creates jobs.

Lessons for New York

The study of the California space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Establishing vibrant connections between academia, the private sector, non-profits, and government is key to building a healthy space ecosystem.
> Space sector growth can be a priority for high-level politicians of both parties.
> Properly conceived and executed space ecosystem development proposals can generate tangible economic benefits in short order.



The Alaskan space ecosystem is centered largely around the state’s two spaceports, which offer unique opportunities for civilian and military launch clients alike. The project was undertaken to diversify Alaska’s economy and attract high-tech talent to the state.

The project has seen success in this regard, going from 75% of spaceport talent coming from the Lower 48 in 2017 to 95% being Alaska based in 2020. Along with significant academic ties and attracting interest from as far afield as India, it is hard to argue against the economic impact space development has had on Alaska.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 27th (550)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 30th ($91 million)

The aerospace sector in Alaska has grown up alongside the Pacific Spaceport Complex, with Alaska Aerospace, Aurora Launch Services, and Astra Launch Services all providing services via the spaceport. This new growth is key to diversifying the Alaskan economy, which historically has been heavily dependent on natural resources like oil and fishing.

The spaceport project itself has a profound economic impact on Kodiak island, generating over $120 million in economic benefit over a 10 year period. As the spaceport workforce has become increasingly Alaskan-grown,


The Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska (PSCA) has been in operation since 1998, and was the first FAA licensed spaceport not located on federal land. It has grown and evolved in the following three decades, providing a unique polar launch capability and working hard to develop into its niche.

The Kodiak Island facility is a full-fledged spaceport, with multiple launch pads, a 17-story Vehicle Assembly Building, clean room facilities for satellite prep, and independent range and telemetry systems. The launch site fully recovered after a devastating 2014 missile launch failure, demonstrating the resiliency of the sector and the viability of the site long-term.

The Poker Flat Research Range is a University of Alaska - Fairbanks managed sounding and research rocket range with a track record of over 1,700 launches to study the Earth’s atmosphere and the atmosphere/space boundary.

This diverse dual complex configuration makes Alaska one of the most unique spaceport host states in the US.

Government Involvement

The Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation was established by the Alaska Legislature in 1991 to oversee spaceport development in the state, and the Legislature has demonstrated support for the project ever since. Alaska Aerospace provides annual reports to the Legislature, and Aerospace Day at the Alaska State Capital is a regular occurrence.

While the PSCA is operated by a public/private partnership and is an organ of the Alaska state government, the spaceport does not receive
funding from the state budget. Since 2015 it is the rare spaceport that is financially profitable
off of launch revenues and alone.

Academics & Civic Society

The University of Alaska - Fairbanks Geophysical Institute is home to a series of physics and astronomy programs, as well as holding the distinction as the only University in the world to own a spaceport (the Poker Flat Research Range). They are also home to the Alaska Satellite Facility, which provides satellite and remote sensing resources to stakeholders in the state.

The Alaska Space Grant Program is an alliance of universities and non-profits throughout the state that sponsors space and STEM related programs. They also host the Alaska NASA EPSCoR program that sponsors academic research enterprises, a critical source of support for space academia in the state.

It is important to note the dissenters who have spoken out against the project for the impact the launches have on the local Kodiak commercial fishing industry. When Alaska Aerospace launched discussions about building a spaceport in Hawaii, there were Alaska residents who cautioned them against the project.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Alaska space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> It is possible for spaceport projects to become financially self-sufficient.
> It is important to plan for significant failures and lay the foundation for resiliency in the face of challenges.
> With dedication and purpose it is possible to grow local sources of talent, building a new space and aerospace sector from the ground up.
> It is important to expect and attempt to respond to persistent community opposition to major space projects.



Oklahoma is home to a robust aerospace industry, a fully functional civilian spaceport, a highly integrated higher education system, and a supportive state government. Yet even in this seemingly ‘perfect’ environment there have been headwinds, and so far Spaceport Oklahoma remains grounded. Yet despite any setbacks the state seems to have weathered the storm and is primed to grow into a major player in the new space age.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 22nd (802)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 22nd ($158 million)

The aerospace industry is a key driver of the Oklahoma economy and the state is home to several large aerospace companies including Boeing and Kratos Defense & Security. Over 1,100 entities make up the Oklahoma aerospace industry and together they employ over 120,000 people. With a total statewide workforce of just over 1.85 million people, the aerospace sector represents 6% of total workers, one of the highest figures in the nation.

The specific impact on Oklahoma City is particularly pronounced. In 2020 there were 291 aerospace employers who generated over $7 billion in economic activity, and paid out over $3.4 billion to more than 43,000 workers. The region’s aerospace sector is also experiencing significant growth, with 55 new employers coming online in the region between 2015 and 2020.

This industry has sought to bolster the academic pipeline to support job growth, fostering extensive partnerships with higher education institutions throughout the state. Yet despite the prominence of aerospace in the state, strong support from government, and academic partners, the aerospace sector still struggles to fill job openings as the academic pipeline struggles to keep up with the booming industry.


The Oklahoma Air & Space Port in Burns Flats is a decades-long project that is intended to serve as the focal point for the state’s aerospace industry and a key link to the broader space economy. The spaceport hosts the only non-military space launch corridor in the United States, and also hosts one of the longest and widest civilian runways in the US.

In 2016 the spaceport inked a deal with the US Air Force for flight training operations, and the spaceport notes testing of unmanned drones and lunar landers at the site. Yet in 2013 critics were already grumbling about lack of state investment at the site, and by 2019 the site was reported to be underutilized, even “crumbling”, and the $300,000 annual investment was paid for by non-space related contracts. Yet by 2021 state officials had redoubled their efforts and were bullish about the future at the spaceport, and the FAA renewed the spaceport’s license in July, 2021.

Government Involvement

The state government in Oklahoma has been broadly and persistently committed to the aerospace industry in the state, and the Burns Flats Spaceport specifically.

The state government prominently promotes the aerospace industry among its business development portfolio, as does Oklahoma City itself (including this snazzy one-pager). Prominent state leaders have supported the Burns Flats spaceport project, including the Lt. Governor tweeting at Sir RIchard Branson the day of his successful suborbital flight. The 2023 Executive Budget highlights recent successes at the spaceport, as well as focusing on upcoming planned upgrades including repairs to multiple systems and buildings at the site and a full market analysis.

The Oklahoma Legislature has also played a supportive role in growing the states’ space industry, but not without reservations. The original legislation creating the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority was authored by the Speaker of the House and Senate President of the Oklahoma Legislature, demonstrating the importance they placed on the project. Yet the 2010 budget that included funds for the spaceport was initially voted down over concerns the project was not worth the investment (the budget eventually passed).

It is clear that persistent and dedicated interest from state government can maintain projects over the long-term, but projects must deliver results before even friendly Legislatures lose interest.

Academics & Civic Society

The higher education picture for the space & aerospace industry in Oklahoma is increasingly bright as multiple dedicated programs have come online, expanding the pipeline of talent to the booming industry. Yet this growth has not yet caught up with demands from employers, creating a critical question for the future of the industry in the state.

The University of Oklahoma runs the Aerospace & Defense Innovation Institute (ADII), a holistic suite of aerospace and defense programming well tailored to the growing needs of the state. Oklahoma State University runs a series of space programs that set the state apart from others when it comes to higher education. The university runs the NSPACE program, which serves as the basis for all NASA education programming around the country. The university is also the host of the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium, the state branch of NASA’s educational grant program. In 2021 they announced the creation of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE), an umbrella organization for aerospace innovation in the state with a key focus on expanding aerospace and STEM programming into K-12 schools to further expand the aerospace pipeline in the state.

This deep and increasingly integrated academic pipeline is invaluable for future growth in the aerospace sector in the state and is clearly a leader for academic and government leaders alike.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Oklahoma space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Strong leadership from the state government can maintain projects though tough times, keeping them viable for future growth.
> Projects must deliver results before even friendly legislatures lose interest and turn hostile.
> The academic pipeline is absolutely critical to a healthy space ecosystem, and must be a sector wide priority for investment and growth. Even then it may not keep up with demand due to external factors.
> A fully developed aerospace sector, with multiple key nodes and a functional spaceport, can generate significant economic activity and become a major player in a state’s economy.



Maine is an up-and-coming space state, with a dual spaceport project rapidly accelerating in recent years and the first Maine-built satellite set to launch later in 2022. This growth is positioning the state to potentially play an unexpectedly outsized role in the new space economy.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 45th (110)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 44th ($10 million)

Maine is home to a growing aerospace and launch sector, headlined by BluShift Industries, a global pioneer in non-toxic biofuel rocket launches. The momentum began building in 2018, as BluShift began supporting serious inquiries into launching their biofuel rockets from Maine. The industry began growing in 2018 when the Maine Space Grant Consortium sponsored a study supporting the concept, which unlocked greater interest from legislative leaders and started the ball rolling on the entire project. After the successful 2021 launch, BluShift received over 200 inquiries from interested partners, demonstrating the value projected in that 2018 study. Brunswick is home to a growing aerospace cluster centered around the old Brunswick Naval Air Station.

A February 2022 report prepared by the Maine Space Grant Consortium for the Governor and State Legislature said the following:

“The industry analysis included companies directly engaged in the new space industry (n=20), the broader collection of companies serving the aerospace industry (n=85), inclusive of space, and an overview of companies serving adjacent industries with skills and capabilities applicable to but not in service of the aerospace industry at this time (n=127). The analysis indicated that a small but thriving new space industry exists within Maine focused primarily on the upstream portion of the new space value chain engaged in the manufacturing of hardware components and subsystems (mWave, Texas Instruments, AVX Corp., Comnay and Garmin), high temperature carbon fiber composite systems (FMI and Auburn craning services (Greison Aerospace), and a host of machining companies (Kennebec Technologies, Hunting Dearborn, Northwood Machine, PTE Precision Machining, Cascon Inc. Numberall Stamp and Tool Co.) and consulting services (Maine Aerospace Consulting and Hanna Consultants).”

It is clear that the aerospace industry in Maine is growing hand in hand with the burgeoning spaceport project, which could see the Maine aerospace industry grow in size to $1 billion by 2042.


Maine is a relatively new entry in the spaceport conversation, but after notching impressive progress in recent years it has one of the more impressive spaceport infrastructures on the East Coast.

The former Loring Air Force Base in far northern Maine served as the test launch facility for blueShift, with a successful launch of a 20ft prototype to an altitude of 4,000 ft in January of 2021. Mission control is based in coastal Brunswick, at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

BluShift recently announced the development of an offshore barge-mounted launch site in Steuben, with the promise of 150-200 jobs for the small coastal community. The site will include a manufacturing facility, lift-boat, and mission control facility. The town actively solicited the launch project for tourism, jobs, and tax benefits.

The State Government is also investing in significant space infrastructure in the state, with both a Data Analytics and Innovation Center broadening the foundation for the sector in the state.

The spurt of growth over the last four years has led to a full blown spaceport network in the state, with multiple launch sites and a growing mission control complex. After Florida and Virginia this is the most robust spaceport and space launch ecosystem on the US East Coast.

Government Involvement

The rapid growth of the state’s spaceport ecosystem has been facilitated by active involvement and investment by both the state and federal government.

In 2019 the Legislature passed a measure establishing the Maine Spaceport Complex Leadership Council, which brought together key stakeholders and facilitated critical conversations.

In April of 2022 the Legislature passed, and the Governor quickly signed, an act creating the Maine Space Corporation, in a strongly bi-partisan vote with significant support across the political spectrum. This transformative legislation established not only the Maine Spaceport Complex, but also a Data Analytics Hub and Innovation Center (DAHIC) to broaden the foundation for the project, impact more industries, and ensure its long term sustainability.

This investment paid off, with a federal investment of $1.2 million following in July of 2022 to spur workforce development surrounding the spaceport project. This federal investment was supported by both Senators and a Congresswoman from both political parties, demonstrating the bi-partisan appeal and the overall significance of the project.

It is clear that the space sector is a significant focus for the state government in Maine, leading to prominent investments that spur further investments, laying the groundwork for job creation and economic development.

Academics & Civic Society

The Maine Space Grant Consortium is the state’s NASA affiliate, and has played a significant role in offering grants and other support for the various spaceport projects around the state. They are also a significant voice in support of DEI in space initiatives throughout the State.

The Maine Technology Institute has played a significant role in the spaceport project, with a $50,000 grant for some of the early spaceport feasibility studies with a grant of nearly $200,000 to BluShift Aerospace to support their early work. Maine is also home to Spaceport Associates, a significant commercial space policy think tank.

The University of Maine is the lead organization in an effort to launch the 1st Maine-built satellite to orbit, scheduled to launch in late 2022. This project includes Middle and High School students, demonstrating the power of space to enhance STEM education for students young and old.

These academic and civic partners are critical components of the Maine space ecosystem, providing essential early support to the nascent industry and facilitating its growth ever since.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Maine space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> State government involvement is critical and can facilitate greater investments, accelerating project timelines and expanding the scope of potential economic growth.
> Finding interested communities eager to host projects can eliminate many common barriers to spaceport projects.
> Diversity and durability is critical to spaceport projects, and investing in complementary projects like Data Centers, Innovation Hubs, or Manufacturing Centers can make spaceport projects more resilient and sustainable for the future.
> Setting realistic expectations, attainable goals, and tailoring a plan to a state’s unique geography and resources, are critically important to a successful space program.



Florida is the quintessential “space state” in the American consciousness. The state has hosted the US crewed launch program since the 1950’s at the infamous Cape Canaveral, making it the crown jewel of NASA and a huge driver of growth in the space and aerospace industry throughout the state.

The space ecosystem present in Florida is likely the most mature and well-developed anywhere on Earth. The Sunshine State hosts the most advanced space launch infrastructure ever created, a statewide employment network of hundreds of companies employing tens of thousands of highly-skilled workers, all of this fueled by a well-oiled academic pipeline that stretches from Kindergarten through College, strongly backed by an active state government and politicians from both parties, creating an active civic footprint that routinely engages the general public.

Florida is the gold standard for space development that all other states aspire to.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 4th (38,569)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 5th ($7.245 billion)

Florida is home to over 400 aerospace companies, with a 2018 employment of over 100,000. While much of the industry is concentrated near NASA’s sprawling complex on Cape Canaveral, there is activity across the state with significant clusters in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami, Orlando, and the Space Coast. Prominent examples outside of the Space Coast include rocket manufacturing in West Palm Beach and small satellite development in Gainesville.

The economic impact from the various military installations involved in space around the state is tremendous, including the Patrick Space Force Base that supports the Kennedy Space Center. In 2021 the complex had an economic impact of $1,275,000,000 dollars, sustaining over 11,000 jobs with an annual payroll of over $450 million dollars. The site supports every class of vertical launch rocket in the US, and conducted 37 launches in 2021.

The economic impact of the space and aerospace industry on Florida is undeniable, with job creation occurring in every region of the state.


Space Coast & KSC

The Space Coast, located on the Atlantic coast of central Florida, is the undeniable nerve center of the US crewed space program. Home to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the Space Coast is one of the most advanced space ecosystems in the world.

Launch Complex 39 is what most Americans think of when they think of the Kennedy Space Center. This is where one can find the gargantuan Vehicle Assembly Building where rockets are assembled before launch. From here the massive crawler-transporters slowly wheel rockets to the launch pad. Launch Complex 39 is also home to the Launch Control Center where on-site management of individual launches is carried out.

The launch history at the site is more impressive than any other spaceport in the world. After being utilized for the 1st crewed flights of the Mercury and Gemini programs, Launch Complex 39 was home to the Apollo missions that landed the 1st men on the Moon. The site was then the nerve center for the next five decades of the Space Shuttle program, including the horrific 1986 Challenger Disaster. In 2014 NASA leased the historic pad 39A to SpaceX, ushering in a new era of commercial launch activity at the site.

The primary Space Force installation supporting KSC is Patrick Space Force Base, which includes the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS). The base is home to Space Launch Delta 45, the military unit that controls all US East Coast launches. The site also includes the Space Force Eastern Range, with 3 launch pads and a 10,000 ft runway. The site holds a number of notable ‘1sts’ in the US space program, including launching the 1st US satellite, the 1st astronaut, and a number of interstellar probes.

The Shuttle Landing Facility hosts one of the longest runways in the world, over 15,000 ft, that was used for Space Shuttle landings until 2011. It is now operated by Space Florida for commercial users in a bid to broaden the applications of the space infrastructure in the region.

Cecil Spaceport

Cecil Spaceport is an FAA-certified horizontal launch spaceport located southwest of Jacksonville. The site is home to Florida’s 3rd longest runway (12,500 ft) and includes use of hangars, offices, and other support services. In addition to providing a horizontal launch capability to complement Cape Canaveral’s vertical launch infrastructure, Cecil Spaceport serves as a key rocket testing facility.

Government Involvement

Space Florida was created in 2006 by the Florida Legislature with the merger of 3 existing space organizations as encouraged by a report from the Governor's Office. This succeeded the Florida Space Agency, which had been created by the Legislature in 1989. The agency consolidation was motivated by the belief that Space Florida would be served by “a high level of visibility within the State; a high level of recurring industry participation in setting strategic direction; and a single point of contact for business”.

As the official aerospace economic development agency in the state one of their key roles is spaceport development around Kennedy Space Center, maintaining its strategic position in the national spaceport network while augmenting the complex with new capabilities (like horizontal launch). One such example is Exploration Park, an aerospace research and development park that sits on 300 acres just outside of KSC. Space Florida has also had major roles in a number of significant space projects, including securing more than half of the $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, supporting a OneWeb Satellite Manufacturing Facility at KSC, and the $24 million Boeing Horizontal Integration Facility.

Florida politicians of both parties have been strong proponents of NASA and the space sector, well aware of the significant impact it has on the state’s economy and sense of civic pride. Former Senator Bill Nelson (D) was the 2nd sitting Member of Congress to fly to space, and eventually became NASA Administrator in 2021 after a unanimous vote of approval from his former Senate colleagues. Current Senator Marco Rubio (R) has introduced bipartisan legislation to create a National Space Guard, demonstrating the continued interest and specialization Florida representatives have in the space sector.

Academics & Civic Society


Every year Florida higher education institutions graduate over 11,000 new workers with degrees in space, aerospace, or related fields. This significant academic pipeline is both a creation of and a precondition for the large ecosystem of businesses that service and benefit from the presence of the KSC.

The Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) is one of the premiere space & aerospace academic institutions not only in Florida, but the entire country. Degree programs in Aerospace, Space Sciences, and Astrobiology are part of one of the broadest possible offerings of space-related studies. The school also operates the Spaceport Education Center just outside KSC with numerous offerings for regional graduate students to continue their education in space-related fields.

The Florida Space Institute was founded by the state of Florida in 1996 to amplify and broaden space programming in the State of Florida University system. Managed by the University of Central Florida, the program conducts research and offers programming for students interested in pursuing careers in the space sector. With more interns than any other institution at the Kennedy Space Center, UCF is another example of the strong academic connections in the Florida space ecosystem.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a Top 10 Aerospace program, contributing to the Florida space ecosystem from their campus in Daytona Beach. The campus hosts dozens of space and aerospace research laboratories, including Spacecraft Development, Space Microbiology, and Astrophysics. The school prides itself on its contributions to the space sector, and is a major academic pipeline for the Florida space private sector.

The Florida Space Grant Consortium conducts a wide array of educational programming in support of the Florida space ecosystem. They offer graduate fellowships, outreach to K-12 students, and informal education opportunities for the general public. From 2015-2019 the FSGC awarded more than $3.3 million dollars in research funding, gave awards to over 400 students, and engaged with over 3,800 K-12 educators and students.

Kennedy Space Center also carries out extensive educational and academic programming. They offer numerous camps and extended for students of all ages. They also offer resources for educators, allowing them to take space programming back to their classrooms.

All of these programs have worked their way down to K-12 programming in the state. UCT conducts outreach and holds programs for teachers who can then take space lessons back to their local classrooms. The Goldsboro Elementary Magnet School outside Orlando offers a unique Kids Space Center with numerous interactive exhibits and activities for young students to begin developing an interest in space.

Civic Society

The KSC Complex is home to many tourist attractions and civic institutions that contribute to the cultural fabric of Florida. The KSC Visitor Center is home to dozens of unique space attractions, including a new exhibit on the deep space Gateway Project, a Taste of Space series, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the famous Rocket Garden, and much much more. The site attracted a record 1.7 million visitors in 2016, demonstrating a rebound after the end of the Space Shuttle program and setting the stage for further growth as SpaceX and other private companies ramp up operations at KSC.

KSC is also home to the Air Force Space & Missile Museum (AFSSM). This unique facility holds some of the earliest rockets from the US space program on display, and focuses specifically on the contributions the Space Force has made to American space exploration.

It is impossible to discuss the KSC Visitor Complex without mentioning the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The 100,000 square foot facility houses a full-size Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 14 Command Module Kitty Hawk, and a monument to the 3 astronauts who died on Apollo I. The center is one of the largest, most impactful, and most visited space attractions in the country.

Nearby Titusville is home to the American Space Museum and the Space Walk of Fame, which holds numerous astronaut artifacts and memorabilia in a public park just 15 miles from the KSC launch pads, in addition to STEM programming for students.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Florida space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Creating complete feedback loops between industry, infrastructure, academia, civic society, and government maximizes the potential of each individual component.
> Strong and interested leadership is critical, and need not be partisan.
> The academic pipeline is essential, and is best developed with connections to both industry and non-profit organizations.



Hawaii has a unique and at times turbulent relationship with the space sector. Home to some of the world’s most powerful telescopes, as well as playing a role in NASA’s satellite tracking and astronaut recovery operations, has made the island state a significant player in the American space ecosystem. This presence has come at a cost though, with persistent community opposition dogging the major telescopes on the island and sinking every spaceport proposal floated since the 1960s.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 33rd (354)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 33rd ($65 million)

Astronomy remains the primary space industry for Hawaii, which as of 2019 generated over $110 million in yearly revenue for the islands, over $68 million in labor income, and supported over 1,300 jobs. The high-value nature of the sector, centered around the significant Observatories in the state, magnifies the economic impact even further.

Hawaii is also home to the Kaena Point Space Force Station, a key location for the military’s Satellite Control Network. There is a small aerospace and defense industry connected to the significant overall military presence in the state.


Hawaii is home to both real and unrealized dreams when it comes to 21st century space infrastructure. The successes and failures of big space projects in Hawaii speak to the complexity and difficulty of growing a mature space ecosystem.

The Mauna Kea Observatories are a globally recognized astronomy icon, generating spectacular discoveries of the heavens for decades. The islands are also home to the Thirty Meter Observatory, a groundbreaking advance in observing the universe that will provide images at greater clarity than even the James Webb. Yet these iconic telescopes are controversial among native Hawaiians, with over a decade of legal action culminating in protests in 2019 and 2020 that led to an indefinite delay in the project. Regardless of controversy, they are a key economic engine for the state and drive significant levels of government interest in space.

Due to its southerly location, clear weather, and easy access to the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii has long been considered a prime location for a spaceport. Aggressive efforts to build a spaceport began in the 1980s, and conversations continued into the 1990s until a Lockheed Martin proposal fell apart in 1993. The proposal bubbled up again in 2009 but went nowhere during the Great Recession, and again in 2016 with no significant progress. A partnership between Alaska Aerospace and the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development tried a few different combinations to establish a spaceport in Hawaii from 2013 until its failure in 2019. Indeed the islands are so familiar with the cycle of spaceport projects it’s taken on a “Will this be the one?” vibe. Even with this long history of unfulfilled promises, groups continue to make the case for a Hawaiian spaceport.

The persistent thread to these failed spaceport proposals is a persistent lack of community support, native opposition, and environmental concerns.

Government Involvement

The state government of Hawaii has been highly involved in the state’s space and astronomy sector, often as the originator of various projects and initiatives. State officials were the driving force behind spaceport proposals in the 1980s, and the Governor was one of the last supporters of the project into the 1990s. Governor David Ige unsuccessfully attempted to preside over a grand compromise in 2015 that would have facilitated development of the Thirty Meter Telescope while granting concessions to protestors, demonstrating the importance the issue had in state politics at the time.

This advocacy for space does not just come from statewide executives lik Governors. The state legislature allocated $500,000 for space tourism in 2009, formed the Multinational Lunar Architecture Alliance in 2017, and established the Office for Aerospace Development in 2021.

This long-lived government support, spanning decades, is unsurprising given the economic and prestige impacts the state already receives from the space and astronomy sector. It is clear, however, that this support is not translating into the communities asked to support spaceport projects, a disconnect worthy of further study.

Academics & Civic Society

Hawaii is also home to extensive civic and cultural assets in the space sector. The Hawaii Space Grant Consortium fosters a wide range of space programming, including the Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL). The islands are also home to a Challenger Learning Center, focused on space and STEM programming for young learners. The Hawaiian Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) utilizes Hawaii’s unique geography to conduct analog Moon and Mars missions.

These organizations are all connected to the astronomy network surrounding the big telescopes, and are often referenced by the state legislature when voting to support the space sector.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Hawaiian space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Local opposition can sink projects, even in the face of persistent government support.
> Government support is still critical, giving life to critical projects and providing key support to the broader space ecosystem, but it is not invincible.
> Even the best indicators for development don’t necessarily result in investments in space.
> Key ‘anchor’ projects can be critical in providing linkages to the academic and civic sectors while driving government support and economic growth.



Mississippi is not often thought of as a major space state, but almost every single rocket that has ever flown from US soil was tested in Mississippi. Major aerospace companies call the state home, and state government leaders have been keen to deepen ties between the space & aerospace industry and Mississippi’s public university system.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 9th (5,187)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 11th ($865 million)

A number of major aerospace companies have operations in Mississippi, most relating to the work conducted at the Stennis Space Center. While aerospace companies can be found across the state, including the far north along the Tennessee border, the largest concentration exists along the Gulf Coast.

Aerospace giants including Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Mississippi-based Vertex Aerospace all have significant operations in the state. Relativity Aerospace announced an expansion of its presence in the state in October 2022, a demonstration of the continuing economic expansion occurring in the space ecosystem in Mississippi. SpaceX not only utilizes the Stennis Space Center for testing, they are also using the state to develop offshore rocket launch pads from old oil rigs.


The most significant facility in Mississippi’s space ecosystem in NASA’s Stennis Space Center. In 1961 NASA announced the coastal site would be home to a new static test facility for the Apollo lunar program due to numerous logistical benefits including easy access to the water for transportation and an acoustical barrier of 125,000 acres (helpful for extremely loud rocket testing). The facility is the most complex rocket testing facility in the world and is utilized by NASA, the Department of Defense, and numerous commercial customers.

It is important to note the movement both in Mississippi and elsewhere to rename the Stennis Space Center. Senator John C. Stennis, after whom the facility is named, was a strong space advocate, but was also a strong advocate of segregation and opposed school integration. It is unlikely advocates will give up their push to rename the facility.

Government Involvement

State and federal elected officials have been aggressive in their support of the space & aerospace industry, keenly aware of the jobs it supports and the positive impact it has on demand for academic institutions.

For example in 2019 the Mississippi Legislature approved a series of tax exemptions and other investments designed to foster growth in the aerospace industry. State government leaders aggressively market the various incentives they offer to attract aerospace companies to the state. Governor’s have traveled as far as Paris to make the case for Mississippi’s aerospace industry. Both state and federal elected officials have supported academic programs in the space industry, such as their support of the partnership between Boeing and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Academics & Civic Society

The Stennis Space Center offers numerous programs that amplify that quality of space education in the state. Resources for students include internships, camps, and specialized robotics programs. They also offer programs for educators so they can take space programming directly into their classrooms.

The development of the Infinity Science Center is an example to other regions about the power of civic engagement and involvement in broadening the societal reach of the space sector. For the first few decades of the Stennis Space Center there was a lack of proper transportation, and public engagement was limited to the small StennisSphere. Starting in 2001 a group of community leaders came together and formed a non-profit to grow the space footprint in the region, and after $12 million in state government funding the Infinity Center was created to engage the public and inspire young people to pursue careers in space.

There are 23 academic institutions in Mississippi that support the space sector, including both community colleges and universities. From 2019-2022 these programs saw a 3.4% increase in undergraduate enrollment and a 24.2% increase in graduate enrollment, a strong indicator of a growing academic aerospace pipeline.

Mississippi State University is the key academic hub in the space ecosystem via the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Their research labs conduct millions of dollars worth of advanced aerospace development every year, and the school offers a number of graduate aerospace degrees.

The University of Mississippi Law Schools offers a unique Space Law that sets it apart from most other collegiate space programs. The program offers specializations in various subsets of space law, as well as running the Journal of Space Law.

Other public universities in Mississippi have also been geared towards supporting the space & aerospace sectors. Jackson State University made history in 2018 when it became the 1st Historically Black College/University (HBCU) to sign the NASA Shared Services Agreement (SSA), which assists academic institutions in landing major government contracts. The University of Southern Mississippi serves as a key technology incubator for advanced materials for Boeing.

Delta State University offers a unique asset for Mississippi’s civic and academic space culture. The Wiley Planetarium is one of only 3 planetariums in the state, and the only one affiliated with a University. This affiliation removes any economic concerns, allowing the planetarium to focus on serving the students at Delta State University and the general public.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Mississippi space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Public university networks can be critical drivers of growth and development in the aerospace sector, but this requires active involvement from state government leaders.
> Major NASA facilities are key drivers of growth, and leveraging NASA ties is a critically important step for the development of any space ecosystem.
> Aggressive and investment state government leaders are key champions that can bridge gaps between academia, industry, and government and drive space sector growth.



Ohio has a long and proud history in American aviation and space history, one that is alive today in the form of a major NASA presence and a significant aerospace sector. It is important to note the concentration of American astronauts that have come from Ohio, with 25 Ohioans making over 80 spaceflights, including 3 separate trips to the Moon.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 9th (5,187)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 11th ($865 million)

Ohio is home to both a large and impactful NASA infrastructure as well as a sizable legacy aerospace industry. Data from 2018 shows that roughly 590 aerospace companies call Ohio home, employing more than 37,000 people. Figures from 2022 show the aerospace industry generates $22.2 billion in annual spending, $39 billion in economic impact, and $69 billion in gross output.

Ohio companies are deeply intertwined with major NASA programs such as the Artemis Moon program, with Deputy NASA Administrator Pam Melroy stating in 2021 that:

“62 (Ohio) companies are providing direct support to Artemis, 27 are supplying NASA’s Ground Systems Exploration, 2 are supporting the Lunar Landing System, and 13 are supporting the Orion spacecraft.”

She followed up stating that:

“Ohio is a Top Ten state in terms of the aerospace investments that we make and the work that we have.”

This clear and ringing endorsement from the highest levels of NASA speaks to the maturity and the impact of the Ohio space ecosystem.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center supports over 3,000 jobs and generates over $2 billion in annual economic impact. This activity supports another 6,000 secondary jobs throughout Ohio.


The Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is one of NASA’s premier research and testing facilities, helping to advance key technologies in aerospace and space travel. Special focus areas include Physical Sciences & Biotech in Space, Space Propulsion, and Extreme Materials.

The Neil Armstrong Test Facility (NATF), part of the Glenn Research Center, sits on 6,400 acres on the shore of Lake Erie and is home to some of the most advanced testing facilities in the world. The In-Space Propulsion Facility is the world’s only facility capable of testing upper stage rockets in simulated high-altitude conditions. The Space Environments Complex holds the world's largest and most powerful environmental simulation capabilities, with the Space Simulation Vacuum Chamber being 100 ft wide and 122 ft tall.

Ohio is also home to the National Air & Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. NASIC is the Defense Department’s primary foreign air and space threat assessment facility, with a number of directorates that involve advanced strategic planning and analysis related to foreign actors in the space domain.

Government Involvement

The space and aerospace industry is certainly on the radar of state officials in Ohio, who are well aware of the economic impact of NASA Glenn and the wider aerospace industry.

The Ohio Legislature is deeply involved with the aerospace industry, primarily through the Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Technology Committee (OAATC). Founded in 2014, the Committee is made up of 6 Legislators (3 from the House & 3 from the Senate), who appoint 14 members from business, defense, and academic sources, with the Governor appointing the final member. The Committee issues reports and conducts outreach, and is a strong example of the power of a deliberate, bi-partisan, broadly inclusive legislative approach to space development.

During the 2022 Ohio Space Forum, sitting Governor Mike DeWine sent a video message acknowledging the space sector and specifically citing the NASIC complex for its contributions to Ohio’s economy. Senator Sherrod Brown and Ohio members of the House have been a strong advocate for Ohio’s space economy and the NASA Glenn facility, securing numerous awards for the state in recent budget cycles.

Academics & Civic Society

The Ohio Space Grant Consortium serves as a critical connector between NASA, academia, and the private sector. Since its inception the OSGC has awarded 1,400 scholarships, over 200 internships, 275 fellowships, 444 grants and 488 mini-grants. They conduct educational outreach with established civic space institutions such as the Cincinnati Observatory and the Drake Planetarium. They hold an annual Student Symposium for undergraduate and graduate students to share their research, an important venue for students who aspire to careers in space.

The Ohio Space Forum is a unique organization that for the last 3 years has held an annual forum of industry, academic, defense, and state government leaders to discuss the role of Ohio in the space industry. This event is a strong indicator of a healthy space ecosystem, with a diverse cross section of stakeholders.

NASA Glenn has a number of significant educational and civic impacts on Ohio, The Glenn Visitor Center includes numerous family-oriented exhibits and activities, including an actual Apollo 11 module. NASA Glenn has even arranged for Ohio students to speak live with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Ohio higher education institutions maintain aerospace programs that contribute to the local space ecosystem. Both Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University are critical partners to aerospace companies in the state, filling an essential role.

Lessons for New York

The study of the Ohio space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Sustained and robust legislative involvement on the state level can have a strong positive impact on space ecosystem growth.
> NASA connections are economic gold, and should be leveraged.
> Specialization and focus can offer benefits for space ecosystems in relatively smaller states or not in primary space regions.



Maryland is a major space state due to its large NASA presence and the resulting academic and industry network it has spawned. Maryland institutions are playing leading roles in major space missions that venture to every corner of the Solar System, drawing outsized federal investments and making the state an attractive location for major aerospace companies. Strong government advocates and a vibrant non-profit sector round out this mature and highly productive space ecosystem.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 5th (36,771)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 4th ($7.965 billion)

The aerospace sector in Maryland comprises over 8,000 individual companies that employ over 100,000 people, a figure that grows to over 140,000 if public employees are included. This results in paid out wages over $14 billion a year and an economic impact of over $33 billion annually.

Numerous major aerospace companies conduct operations in Maryland, including Northrup Grumman and BAE Systems. Lockheed Martin has a large presence in the state, although the recent closing of the Middle River facility is a blow to the state’s aerospace sector.

Maryland is first in the nation in terms of federal research spending, at almost $17 billion annually. This flows through over a dozen federal government or military space facilities, as well as a number of prominent universities like Johns Hopkins.


Maryland is home to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the nation's largest collection of the scientists and engineers that assemble spacecraft. The site is home to Hubble operations, and was a testing ground for the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope. Other high-profile missions managed by Goddard include the Curiosity Rover on Mars and the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI), located at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is one of the key drivers of American observational astronomy. They are responsible for operating major telescopes, including Hubble and the James Webb, conducting extensive research with the data returned by those telescopes, and then sharing this knowledge with the public through various unique outreach mechanisms.

Maryland is also involved in an official capacity with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Wallops Island, Virginia. This partnership gives Maryland academic institutions and businesses access to the second busiest spaceport on the East Coast, adding a unique dimension to Maryland’s space ecosystem.

Government Involvement

Maryland politicians have long been advocates for the space sector, aware of the positive impact it has on the state’s economy, academics, and civic culture. For example the official Maryland government website has extensive information on the state’s space sector, and there are a number of tax breaks and incentives available to space and aerospace companies. Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the second most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives, has been a guest at Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheons.

Longtime Senator Barbara Mikulski was a powerhouse supporter of space and the NASA presence in Maryland over her multiple decades in Congress. She served almost 40 years on the Appropriations Committee, where former Goddard Director Chris Scolese said she was a “true champion of the space program and a true champion of Goddard Space Flight Center…She has supported us over many years and over many projects.” She was a staunch advocate for the Hubble and James Webb telescope programs, and the NASA program that disseminates telescope data to the broader scientific community is named after her.

After her retirement she donated her space memorabilia collection (including astronaut autographs and telescope images) to the Space Telescope Science Institute. She was a tireless champion for the Maryland space ecosystem and demonstrates the impact a powerful government champion can have on a state’s space fortunes.

Academics & Civic Society

Maryland is home to a vibrant civic space culture and a deep and well-integrated academic network involving numerous major institutions.

The Maryland Space Grant Consortium offers a number of educational and community outreach programs throughout the state. They hold a Student Research Symposium to highlight student achievements from universities across Maryland. They operate the Morris W. Offit Observatory on the Johns Hopkins campus, where they hold a regular

The Maryland Science Center has been in operation since 1797, making it the oldest science institution in the state and one of the oldest in the nation. The Center is home to both the Davis Planetarium and an Observatory, bringing space science directly to Maryland youth.

The University of Maryland is home to the Space Systems Laboratory, a leader in the field of astronautics. The facility is home to the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility (NBRF), one of only two in the US and the only one on a college campus in the world. Buoyancy research is critical to understanding the microgravity environments faced by astronauts, The program's research in Space Systems “emphasizes space robotics, human factors, applications of artificial intelligence and the underlying fundamentals of space simulation.”

Maryland’s CRESST II (Center for Research & Exploration in Space Science & Technology) is a collaboration between NASA Goddard and a number of University of Maryland campuses with the goal to “support and enhance research and technology in the space sciences in support of NASA's strategic science mission objectives.” The program enables more than 100 research scientists across the university network to work directly with an elite NASA facility.

As mentioned previously, Johns Hopkins University is the home to the Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI), one of its many space sector contributions. It offers unique degree programs like a Masters in Space Systems Engineering, as well as traditional degrees in Aerospace Engineering.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is the largest collegiate research facility in the country, and has developed spacecraft that have visited both Pluto and the Sun. The lab also played a role in the recent DART asteroid redirect mission, and will soon be launching a probe to Jupiter’s moon Europa. The labs National Security Space program recently announced a deal for advanced leadership training for the Space Force,

Lessons for New York

The study of the Maryland space ecosystem offers some interesting lessons for the growing space ecosystem in New York:

> Powerful political champions can single handedly alter the growth trajectory of a states’ space ecosystem.
> NASA facilities can be key drivers of economic growth.
> Academic institutions are vital space hubs and it is imperative to integrate them into both government and private sector stakeholders.



While a more exhaustive analysis will be published separately, this report has identified a wide range of programs and institutions that define space ecosystems around the United States. Analyzing these structures and better understanding the dynamics at play offers many instructive lessons for space ecosystem stakeholders in New York.

Industry Analysis

2021 NASA Employment Rank: 15th (2,321)
2021 NASA Economic Impact Rank: 15th ($531 million)

New York is home to a modest-sized space and aerospace sector with just over 200 firms employing at least 42,000 employees, and solid historical roots. The industry is overwhelmingly concentrated on Long Island, where the Apollo lunar landers were constructed. Manhattan is home to some boutique space architecture and space tourism firms, as well as certain space media outlets like New York is undoubtedly a top space finance state, serving as a primary source of investment across multiple subcategories.

The sector faces headwinds due to a variety of factors, driven by the downward spiral that has afflicted many businesses in the state. Heavy industry relocated to cheaper states in the south and west, academic pipelines followed suit, and the negative feedback loops began.

There are signs this cycle is reversing. The recent announcement that Micron will be investing $100 billion to produce semiconductors in Upstate in Syracuse is a strong indicator that the manufacturing tradition in New York is not yet dead. If the current fragmentation and isolation in the space & aerospace sector can be repaired and the academic links enhanced, there is the potential for a space manufacturing renaissance in the Empire State.


New York is home to a broad network of Planetariums & Observatories that span the state, many of which conduct educational and community outreach programming. Manhattan is home to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, by far the largest footprint the space agency has in the state.

There is currently no major rocketry testing or spaceflight related activity in the state.

Government Involvement


This isn’t true, but the reality is not much better.

A handful of commemorative and administrative bills have passed through the Legislature in recent years, but that is the extent of any space related initiatives. In 2017 a proposal to form a Commission to study the space sector in New York did receive some bipartisan support from across the state, but after not receiving a full floor vote it died and was never reintroduced.

Individual legislators have been supportive of their local space resources, but in terms of substantive efforts to address the space sector in the state remain woefully inadequate.

Academics & Civic Society

Perhaps the strongest component of New York’s space ecosystem is the academic component. Major universities such as Cornell, Columbia, Stony Brook, RPI, and the University of Buffalo all have unique and dynamic space programming. There is also a cohort of K-12 planetariums across the state that offer programming to younger students.

The academic sector is a key resource that must be integrated into the industrial sector to better invigorate growth.


Here are the initial limitations and future areas of investigation suggested at the start of this report.

Limitations of this report include:
> These analyses are NOT exhaustive. There are undoubtedly numerous examples in each category in these states that were not included. This report is meant to be descriptive, not exhaustive.
> Acknowledged lack of on the ground knowledge or perspective from many of these states, limiting analysis to a more “birds eye view”.

Future areas of investigation include:
> Establishing a standard set of metrics for each state that can be tracked over time, particularly in economic and academic categories.
> Exploration of variances across states in regards to efforts towards increasing diversity and access in the space industry.
> Conduct more extensive interviews and state-specific interviews to understand the nuances of each state and their lessons for New York.

Applying Lessons to New York

After all of the state-by-state reporting, the analysis, and the appropriate perspective, what are the lessons for the New York space ecosystem?

* Our state government support is sorely lacking.

In terms of state and local government support for the space sector, New York is clearly lagging far behind all 17 states studied. There has never been significant legislative momentum in Albany, no statewide politician has spoken on the issue, and there is insufficient pressure on governmental or political leaders to change that status quo.

* Our levels of interconnectedness and mutual reinforcement are lacking.

There are many highly productive pockets of activity in the New York space ecosystem. They simply do not network and synergize enough either vertically or horizontally.

Vertical networking within subsectors of the ecosystem would involve sharing expertise and experience, building statewide networks to address shared concerns, and building a more powerful presence that will require attention and investment from Albany,

Horizontal networking within the ecosystem would involve cross-sector networking events, workshops, and projects. Fostering these connections is what restarts positive feedback loops and fills gaps in manufacturing and academic capacity.

* We have the Universities and the civic infrastructure of other states, that’s not our weakness.

The undoubted strength of the New York space ecosystem is the multiple high-caliber universities in the system, with a broad network of small schools, community colleges, and minority-focused institutions filling out the higher education sphere. The cohort of K-12 schools with planetariums serves as a model for other districts in the state, building out the full academic pipeline.

If there is a weakness in the ecosystem it is the lack of strong drivers from the industrial sphere. Demand drives offerings, and a growth in industry demand in specialized sectors relating to rocketry, spaceports, and heavy aerospace manufacturing on a large scale is necessary to drive academic offerings in these areas.

* We had the industry footprint, and while activity does remain, it lacks the support to truly grow.

New York built the Apollo lunar landers, and there is no reason we can’t be a critical part of the next generation of spacecraft going to Mars and beyond.

The $100 billion Micron semiconductor investment in Syracuse has put to bed the argument that New York can’t host large scale advanced manufacturing. The state has relentlessly pursued the semiconductor industry over the last decade, and it has now paid massive dividends.

Imagine what the New York space industry could be with similar focus and dedication. The ability to massively expand our presence in the supply chain for satellites and heavy rockets, develop a role in the biological and environmental challenges of human exploration, and become a hub in the growing sub-orbital and Low Earth Orbit transportation industry.

There is no reason this cannot be the future of the New York space ecosystem.

* Large, dynamic projects like a spaceport could be possible here, once these gaps are addressed.

If the proper dominos fall into place, New York could easily become a Top Ten space state and a major contributor to the New Space economy.

If current space stakeholders and institutions deepen their networks and amplify their community presence, that reinforces the academic and industrial sectors. A new statewide focus and agenda would rally these groups together and become a visible and noticeable sector in the economic, political, and public consciousness. This in turn draws interest and attention from legislators and government officials, who will then be much more open to raising the profile of space in New York, improving the business climate, enhancing academic offerings, and supporting community institutions.

It’s all about positive feedback loops. The necessary connections are becoming clear.

It’s now on us to make them.

Thank you for joining us on this exploration, and stay tuned for future updates and reports!

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