LIMESTONE, Maine — Two years after a historic rocket launch, the former Loring Air Force Base will soon become the assembly and test site for a new space company’s low-orbit “spaceplane.”
Maine wants to be part of the growing space industry and Aroostook is well poised to become a rocket and spaceplane launch site due to its open, rural spaces. Loring’s former airport runway made history in 2021 when Brunswick-based bluShift Aerospace launched the first rocket powered by carbon-neutral biofuel. But bluShift officials later shifted their focus to potential launch sites near coastal Maine.
Now, Loring is set to become the headquarters for Portland-based HyperSpace Propulsion, a company working to develop the first “spaceplane,” a plane powered by rocket engines that would enter low-orbit outer space and ideally transport cargo and passengers faster than the average plane.
HyperSpace’s SPACESTAR will be powered by hybrid engines that include rocket propulsion. Unlike traditional planes, the SPACESTAR could potentially take off from runways five to six times per day and land in under two hours, said Robert Laidlaw, a HyperSpace company representative.
The news comes as the Maine Space Complex begins efforts to capture 10 percent of the United States small satellite and launch markets by 2045, creating thousands of jobs. Though not part of the Maine Space Corp, HyperSpace’s goals are aligned with that board’s mission.
HyperSpace is just what Loring needs to position itself as a major launch site again, noted Scott Hinkel, president of Green 4 Maine, which owns the land that the company will use in its operations.
“These guys are developing a world-class aircraft and they’re choosing Loring as the place to produce it. That’s extremely exciting for Maine,” Hinkel said.
HyperSpace plans to use Loring’s former airport runway to test rockets before reaching out to potential airline and military customers.
HyperSpace plans to renovate 100,000 square feet of building space to house an assembly plant for rocket parts. The company has not yet chosen which building it will lease, but negotiations are underway with Green 4 Maine LLC.
Per those negotiations, Green 4 Maine might partner with HyperSpace to start a new company that would manufacture rocket parts at Loring, Hinkel said.
HyperSpace is the latest start-up company to announce development plans on the new Green 4 Maine campus at Loring. Green 4 Maine purchased 450 acres of the Loring Commerce Centre earlier this year, hoping to turn the campus into a hub of modern industries with state and national interests.
So far Green 4 Maine has signed on Eternal Mind, a Kennebunk company that will hire at least 30 to 50 people for an artificial intelligence research center at Loring. Local entrepreneurs are also setting up shop and trying to draw in more community members.
DG Fuels, a Washington-D.C.-based company, plans to build a $4 billion facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel. Though not part of the Green 4 Maine campus, DG Fuels wants to hire 2,300 people during construction and 650 people after that.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the SPACESTAR is a rocket. It is a plane powered by engines with rocket propulsion.