State Senate Committee Puts Michigan Launch Initiative Back on Track

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cancelled $2.5 million in state funding for the Michigan Launch Initiative (MIL), but on April 26 the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve a bill reviving the funding that will assist in developing a low-earth-orbit launch site at a yet-to-be-determined location in northern Michigan.
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The Michigan Launch Initiative will continue after the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to revive its funding. The initiative will help develop a low-earth-orbit launch site in northern Michigan. // Illustration courtesy of Firefly Aerospace

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cancelled $2.5 million in state funding for the Michigan Launch Initiative (MIL), but on April 26 the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve a bill reviving the funding that will assist in developing a low-earth-orbit launch site at a yet-to-be-determined location in northern Michigan.

The funding was part of a $12 million appropriations bill the committee approved that, if passed by the full Senate and House and signed by the governor, will provide $2.5 million in Michigan enhancement grants to the Sterling Heights-based Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA), a nonprofit trade group which is spearheading the MIL.

According to Gavin Brown, executive director of the MAMA, his organization is competing with other states to send rockets carrying the latest satellites into space. The funds are needed for site location review, development planning, business case development, and legal services.

Once a site is selected, Brown says investors are waiting to fully fund the project, which is expected to cost $70 million. Years ago, Michigan had a rocket program, and it now has the potential to get back in the game as more satellites are needed to accommodate 5G cellular services and the communication backbone for autonomous vehicles.

In related actions, the governing bodies of Iosco County and Oscoda, Greenbush, and AuSable townships each recently voted on resolutions encouraging the state to support MIL funding.

In turn, the MIL program will be on the agenda at the Michigan Space Forum May 31-June 1 at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City. The forum is an interactive platform for discussion about the state’s role in shaping the next generation of space architecture.

Topics at this year’s event will include how the state can entice businesses to develop space technology on “The Third Coast,” the cultivation of the “Astropreneur,” and how innovations in space can be used to study Earth and improve communications on a global scale. For more information, visit michiganspaceforum.com.

More information on Michigan’s potential launch site is available here and in our March/April 2019 issue.

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