Satellite launches, potential sub-orbital rides at future Michigan spaceport

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 5:12 PM EST
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It's official - Michigan will look to create a new horizontal space launch facility.

The facility would be a space command center and ecosystem located at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in Iosco County.

At a press conference at the State Capitol on Tuesday, lawmakers and Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) said that the site would be a spaceport for launching spacecraft into orbit, research, and potential sub-orbital space tourism.

“This is an exciting next step in the process of developing Michigan’s ecosystem of space technology,” said Gavin Brown, executive director of MAMA. “While much work lies ahead, we are pleased to share these initial results from our due diligence. Such a facility would solidify Michigan’s leadership role in the aerospace and defense industry while becoming an important economic catalyst.”

In June 2019, the Michigan Legislature appropriated $2 million to assess the feasibility of developing one or more low-orbit launch sites in Michigan.

It is estimated that the aerospace facility will produce around $375 million in revenue per year in launches, which equals jobs.

A feasibility and environmental impact study should be completed in 6-8 months.

“This initial study is exciting news for the people of northern Michigan, and I look forward to what the continuing study might tell us about how our state might expand into the space sector,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, who represents Oscoda. “The potential to develop a space ecosystem in Michigan complements the long tradition of excellence in automotive manufacturing in our great state.”

The airport chosen was among 8 Michigan sites evaluated by the MAMA.

“The announcement of this first important step toward Oscoda becoming the official location for a horizontal spaceport is the news we had been hoping for,” said Rep. Sue Allor, who represents Iosco County. “Oscoda’s prime location and strong community are certainly deserving of this fantastic opportunity, and I will continue working with Sen. Stamas to ensure that we do what we can in Lansing to help make this plan a reality.”

Site submissions were evaluated on a variety of technical, economic and physical factors by MAMA and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, according to the announcement.

MAMA says the site could help Michigan's prospects as a hub for autonomous vehicles because the spaceport could be used to launch satellite communication systems for them.

It hopes to start construction in 2021 and have the first launch in 2022.

Final approval is still needed by the FAA.

MAMA will hold a public meeting at Oscoda High School at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21. All are welcome to attend.

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