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New Mexico organizations awarded more than $25 million in CHIPS Act funding

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(The Center Square) – The White House awarded a New Mexican company $23.9 million from the CHIPS and Science Act this week.

The $23.9 million award went to Albuquerque’s Rocket Lab, formerly SolAero. It will help increase the organization’s satellite solar power production over the next four years, according to the New Mexico Economic Development Department. This will create up to 140 more jobs for the state.

The company plans to invest $70 million in private capital into its expansion, plus $25 million in financial assistance and incentives from New Mexico.

“New Mexico’s space economy is growing every day, and Rocket Lab’s expansion will bring more than 100 new jobs,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “This is just the latest example of how the CHIPS and Science Act is fueling new technology and high-wage jobs in New Mexico.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo also offered praise for the project.

“Solar cells are important for keeping our communication and space technology powered and operational, and this proposed award would help our military, NASA, and our commercial space industry have access to the specialty semiconductors they need to keep our country safe and continue to lead in scientific discoveries and space commerce,” Raimondo said in a press release from her department. “Thanks to President Biden’s leadership and this proposed CHIPS investment, the United States is meeting the growing demand for these semiconductors while helping to diversify America’s chip manufacturing capabilities and creating new, quality jobs for workers in New Mexico.”

Two of the 10 announced awards this week will go to expanding facilities in New Mexico; Intel’s manufacturing plant in Sandoval County was also approved for CHIPS funding.

“Intel’s award will support the modernization of two semiconductor production facilities into advanced packaging facilities to close an important gap in the domestic semiconductor supply chain,” a release said. “Once in full production, this will be the largest advanced packaging facility in the United States, re-establishing American leadership in semiconductor manufacturing.”

New Mexico ranked fifth in the country for year-over-year growth of manufacturing jobs, the release said.

Rocket Lab leads the global market share in satellite and spacecraft solar power solutions. It sends about 500,000 Watts of power to orbit each year.

“The space-grade solar cells produced in Albuquerque power critical satellites for early missile warning and exploratory science, including the James Webb Space Telescope, the Artemis program’s Orion Crew Capsule and Lunar Gateway, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and the Mars Insight Lander,” the release said.

Under this CHIPS agreement, Rocket Lab will partner with New Space New Mexico (NSNM), a nonprofit that wants to accelerate space innovation in New Mexico.

As a part of the deal, Rocket Lab will spend $2 million over three years, let the company access its equipment, services, and personnel, and sponsor internship positions for the NewSpace Ignitor and Pathways to the Stars programs — both major initiatives of the NSNM program.

NewSpace Ignitor will create co-innovation hubs in Albuquerque, Navajo Nation, and rural southern New Mexico, providing opportunities and promoting high-tech manufacturing across the state.

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