UMaine Space Initiative set to propel the next generation of innovators 

The University of Maine Space Initiative brings together faculty, administrators, staff and students to advance Maine’s space-based economy and help meet the demand for a highly skilled workforce in space-related research, technology development and commercialization. 

The mission of the initiative is to support research and development in space science and engineering through a multidisciplinary approach. This includes the direct participation of non-STEM researchers to provide a unique perspective, supporting the needs of a new and innovative space economy workforce.

Associate Vice President for Research Ali Abedi is leading the UMaine Space Initiative in collaboration with a representative group of faculty serving on the initiative’s steering committee. 

“UMaine Space focuses on several key areas, including the development of enhanced internship programs with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other aerospace industry partners, with an emphasis on fostering growth within the Maine-based space economy,” says Abedi, who also serves as director of the Center for Undergraduate Research.

Opportunities for training of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students in project development and strategic planning is a key part of this special focus, along with the design of interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunities for students. The initiative also fosters outreach activities to K–12 groups, geared toward developing interest in space-related careers, a necessary step in the road map to building the next generation of innovators.

Several milestones have been reached recently which have brought positive attention to the state’s capabilities within the space sector. In late 2020, the Maine Space Grant Consortium received a U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant of $444,009 to develop a strategic plan for the Maine SpacePort Complex. The new Maine SpacePort Complex will develop, manufacture and launch nanosatellites into polar orbit. The complex will include an Innovation Hub with research, development and manufacturing facilities, and launch facilities in designated Opportunity Zones. 

This new initiative, along with the SpacePort Complex and the continued expansion of the new space economy in Maine, aligns with the state’s Economic Development Strategy and the University of Maine System R&D Plan.

As Maine’s land, sea and space grant university, recently designated as a Carnegie R1 top-tiered research institution, UMaine has been uniquely positioned to address the research and development needs of the state. 

Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Kody Varahramyan says “the UMaine Space Initiative is part of a series of university-wide initiatives that have been strategically created as part of the University of Maine System’s Research and Development Plan, and are supporting the realization of an innovation-driven Maine economy for the 21st century, addressing the workforce, and social and economic needs.”  

For more detailed information about the initiative visit the UMaine Space Initiative website.