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Can N.M. become an asset to U.S. Space Force?

Congressional delegation sends letter to new military agency touting state’s attributes
New Mexico hopes to use resources like the White Sands Missile Range, pictured here when the Boeing Starliner landed in 2019, to become a key player in the development of the U.S. Space Force.

FARMINGTON – The headquarters of the newly formed U.S. Space Force might be headed to Colorado, but New Mexico would like a slice of the galactic pie.

In a letter to the chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force and commander of U.S. Space Command, Gen. John W. Raymond, New Mexico’s congressional delegation and the state’s governor urged the new military agency to take advantage of existing public and private space assets in the state.

“As you work to establish the newly formed United States Space Force, our delegation urges you to fully incorporate and leverage New Mexico’s existing public and private sector space capabilities,” the legislators wrote in the letter

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small, along with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, sent the letter to Raymond on Tuesday, highlighting the infrastructure in New Mexico that could be used to serve the newest military department.

The lawmakers listed a few of the state’s resources they said could be used as the U.S. Space Force continues to develop its infrastructure. Assets included Kirtland Air Force Base, two national laboratories, research universities, Spaceport America, White Sands Missile Range, NASA Johnson Space Center and available service people in the New Mexico National Guard. The letter also identified private resources like Las Cruces Space Festival, Sandia Science and Technology Park, and Innovate ABQ.

The lawmakers also requested a briefing with Raymond to continue discussing the resources in New Mexico and a Department of Defense feasibility study about the future of an inland spaceport for space launch and hypersonic testing. The delegation also sent the letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Barbara Barrett.

The letter from New Mexico comes the same week the Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 included $88 million to finish constructing a facility in Colorado. If the final funds are approved, the Consolidated Space Operations Facility at Schriever Air Force Base near Colorado Springs would be scheduled to be completed in March 2022, according to budget documents.

Although Colorado will be home to a lot of the U.S. Space Force infrastructure, the New Mexico delegation is hopeful the state can play a role in its growth. The space industry represents a growing sector in the state, with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact, lawmakers said.

“The state of New Mexico was witness to the birth of the rocket age when Dr. Robert H. Goddard first experiment in our high deserts,” the letter read. “Our state is apt and eager to continue serving a critical role in the development of the new space economy and its relationship with the emerging Space Force.”

lweber@durangoherald.com



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