In-Depth Report

New York Lags Key States in Race to Space: Summary

Patrick Chase
Nov 03 2022
(Image Source)

Below is an abbreviated version of the long-form Empire Space Report titled “New York Lags Key States in Race to Space.” This exhaustive report studied 17 states that host major space ecosystems. A “space ecosystem” is defined as the comprehensive network of space sectors in the state, including academic, industry, government, and infrastructure (like spaceports). Healthy space ecosystems not only have strengths in multiple sectors, but they foster collaboration between them.

All relevant source material (over 500 supporting links) and much more thorough analysis can be found in the full report. This summary includes the Major Takeaways from the report, Lessons for New York, and State-by-State Summaries.

We hope this summary is thought-provoking and invigorating, and we encourage you to check out the full report to join the conversation!


These are the most important themes and lessons Empire Space felt expressed themselves in the course of our research. Beneath each are states we feel serve as good examples of each particular takeaway, but every state contributes to these lessons on some level.

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


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 apart from a handful of ceremonial and administrative bills, 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 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.

One of the most significant strengths 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 (LEO) transportation and service 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.



* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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

* 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.


* Robust local space ecosystems with good foundations can survive project cancellations and other roadbumps.
* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.
* 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.


* 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.


* 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.


* 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.

Thank you for reading! If you have comments, questions, or suggestions please email!

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