The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) has identified Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, located 47 miles south of Alpena on the shores of Lake Huron, as the top candidate to host a horizontal spaceport.
A horizontal spaceport launches rockets into space from under the wings of airplanes that takeoff in a conventional manner. MAMA is continuing to search for locations for a space command center and a vertical launch complex.
The site-selection process for the horizontal launch facility was conducted over the past eight months. The airport, which served as Wurtsmith Air Force Base from 1923-1993, received the highest ranking because of its runway infrastructure, business capacity, operational strength, and safety track record.
“This is an exciting next step in the process of developing Michigan’s ecosystem of space technology,” says 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.
“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,” says 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 Oscoda-Wurtsmith airport was among eight Michigan sites evaluated by MAMA and its spaceport expert Brian Gulliver from the Kimley-Horn consulting firm, under the oversight of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Site submissions were evaluated on a variety of technical, economic, and physical factors by MAMA and Gulliver, who has experience assisting spaceports all over the world.
MAMA will continue to conduct the feasibility study that will be submitted to the MEDC by the second quarter of this year. The effort will include additional site-specific discussions with governmental licensing and regulatory agencies, as well as partners in the commercial sector.
“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,” says Rep. Sue Allor, who represents adjacent 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.”