How New Mexico Serves as a Model in the Globalized and Commercialized Space Economy

By Raven Delfina Otero-Symphony

At the event horizon, a table is set to celebrate an imminent celestial venture. Plates shaped from meteor impacts rest atop vibrant mineral tablemats, while an array of silverware sits poised on rolling dunes of white napkins. Volcanic ranges of clay pottery line the table but a touch away from the shimmering edge of the Milky Way galaxy. This lunar mesa is not a mere table, but the magnificent landscape of a southwest state intertwined with the cosmos since time immemorial. Bienvenidos a Nuevo México, the bridge to space.

Over 1.250 meters above sea level, the locally coined “Land of Enchantment” is rich in scientific discovery and wonder. The Sun Dagger at Chaco Canyon is among the earliest works of brilliant astronomers to track solstices and equinoxes, and the Roswell incident memorialized the region as extraterrestrial. In the 20th century, New Mexican-born astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, while geologist and Senator Harrison Schmitt was among the first to walk on the moon. Despite these vital space contributions, New Mexico is often overshadowed by California, Texas, and Florida, if not for the regoliths that are the National Laboratories and Air Force military bases. Like many others, these government-led research and development centres were the cornerstone of the space economy—until recently.

The modern space age is characterized by rapid globalization and private commercialization. The benefits of space technology that enable everyday life have propelled the growth of local space agencies and pipelines. Over half of the 77 government space agencies, today were established after the 1989 commercial space launch, and this statistic steadily includes marginalized countries. Shaping the global parameters of space economies is an opportunity away from historical narratives employing space for warfare and geopolitical prowess. The defining cornerstone of the new space age is collaboration beyond space stations, and New Mexico illuminates the path of bridging cultural differences to achieve equitable goals. 

Like the historic Rio Grande river that binds the Land of Enchantment together, the New Mexico Space Valley Coalition (or "Space Valley") connects more than 350 partnerships and alliances to solve space challenges from advanced manufacturing to equitable representation. The previously-named historical and contemporary icons in space science and technology hardly reflect the talent of the minority-majority state of New Mexico. In addition to laying the groundwork for accurate and diverse participation in the space economy, Space Valley aims to connect neighbouring stakeholders in Colorado.  Collectively, the region is poised to accelerate the nation’s commercial space industry by bridging the gap between use-based research and the commercialization of space technologies.

This is the only way forward: the culmination of diverse local and neighbouring expertise is not alien to New Mexico, whose identity is a harmonious blend of thriving Puebloan Indigenous, Hispanic, and 70 more cultural perspectives. Federal entities have yet to leverage the power of local commercial space services, which must be constellated in a balanced ecosystem for maximized space technological and market outputs. The ability to drive innovation through diverse collaboration is one of the reasons why Silicon Valley thrived—and the private sector operates on successful business strategies. But the new generation is not solely defined by venture capital, more so than the venture to connect and invest in sustainability, education, and understanding.

A commercial space engine serving as a regional connector is a necessary yet novel strategy for an industry projected to expand 800% over the next two decades. Space Valley is the foundation of a sustainable ecosystem to undo misleading “Wild West” space narratives and instead set our trajectory toward balanced, measurable, and community-oriented exploration. Everyone should have a seat at the table for an international celestial venture piloted on one shared Earth. What better way to reach the stars at this event horizon than bridging our differences at a mesa in a Land of Enchantment? 


Raven Delfina Otero-Symphony is a multigenerational New Mexican and is currently working as a Junior Data Scientist at Quilty Space. She is the first and only New Mexican in the Brooke Owens Fellowship and an active Space Generation Advisory Council member.