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Michigan Launch Initiative takes another step in Northern Michigan

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket with a payload of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

(The Center Square) – The Michigan Launch Initiative has announced the public-private partnership’s second of three anticipated locations to launch and track low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in the state.

On Thursday, MLI revealed it had determined an area north of Marquette in the state’s Upper Peninsula will soon become a vertical launch site for LEOs.

MLI previously announced last February it would construct a horizontal launch site at the location of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport. The site selection for a control center has yet to be determined.

The vertical launch site concludes a year-long selection process, which was assisted by a $2 million grant from the state approved in 2019 to conduct environmental impact research and site designs.

MLI says the Marquette facility could create up to 2,000 jobs, and projects the three sites could create up to 4,000 Michigan jobs.

“Michigan’s access to talent, manufacturing infrastructure and global positioning make our state perfectly situated for horizontal and vertical launches and technical support for post-launch satellite operations,” Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, said in a statement.

“I am proud to see the progress the Michigan Launch Initiative is making to help bring exciting and unique space industry opportunities to Macomb County and our state.”

Spaceport consultants BRPH and Kimley-Horn ranked sites based on several factors, including existing commercial and public infrastructure, geographic and terrestrial mapping, living standards and workforce development.

Operations are expected to begin by early 2025.

“The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is home to some of the hardest working and most resourceful people in the world,” U.S. Rep Jack Bergman, who represents the 1st District, said in a statement.

“Locating this spaceport in the U.P. will create the opportunity for our residents to use their skills, talents and technological expertise to adapt to the changing needs of the commercial and defense space industries,” Bergman added.

According to MLI, the Marquette launch site will conduct between 22 and 25 launches per year at full capacity, and will necessitate between $50 million and $75 million. Each launch is estimated to generate revenue of $15 million, with potential annual earnings of $375 million.

“With the integrated space resources working collaboratively to serve industries like autonomous technology, automotive, communications, medical, education and first responders, Michigan will be able to fulfill the demand for complete geographical broadband coverage, including 5G for electric vehicles anywhere in the US,” Majority Floor Leader Tristan Cole, R-Antrim County, said in a statement.

Not everyone is thrilled about the MLI announcement, however. Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, told The Center Square he opposes the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize businesses regardless the promises of job creation and increased tax revenues.

“The Wright Brothers didn’t need a subsidy to find Kitty Hawk,” LaFaive said. “They took to the skies without a dime of taxpayer dollars and sooner than their subsidized rival.”

LaFaive continued: “There is no sound reason for the state to subsidize space launch site searches or anything else associated with this increasingly for-profit industry.

“The balance of research shows that corporate and industry subsidies are an ineffective way to spur economic development and innovation. If this project can’t lift off without subsidies than it should not.”

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