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N.M. Delegation Welcomes Expansion of Albuquerque-Based SolAero’s Semiconductor Manufacturing, Creating 100 New Jobs

The $24 million proposed federal investment is made possible through the CHIPS and Science Act

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) are welcoming preliminary terms between the U.S. Department of Commerce and SolAero by Rocket Lab, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based manufacturing company, for the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide up to $23.9 million in direct funding under the CHIPS and Science Act, which is projected to create over 100 direct manufacturing jobs in Albuquerque. 

The proposed investment would enable SolAero to increase its production of compound semiconductors for spacecraft and satellites, as part of an expansion and modernization of their facility in Albuquerque. 

“This major investment from our CHIPS and Science Act will further solidify New Mexico’s role as a leader in advanced manufacturing and create over 100 manufacturing jobs. It will also further cement our state as the best place in America to manufacture novel technologies with emerging space defense applications,” said Heinrich, a member of the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act Conference Committee. “For years now, I’ve been proud to bolster New Mexico’s bases, defense research labs, and private industry partners so we can keep excelling in emerging defense fields. That includes supporting the growth of SolAero—a homegrown New Mexico defense technology company that has become an industry leader in manufacturing solar cells for space-based defense systems and commercial satellites. This exciting investment is just the latest downpayment to maintain New Mexico’s longtime leadership in national security and innovation.”

“As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I was proud to help shape the CHIPS and Science Act to advance New Mexico’s role in the future of manufacturing. This funding will help solidify New Mexico as a hub for cutting-edge innovation,” said Luján. “This investment by the Department of Commerce underscores our commitment to creating new jobs here at home. Investing in local companies like SolAero is crucial to drive innovation and continue New Mexico’s legacy of advanced manufacturing.”   

“I am so excited that SolAero will get $24 million to expand and modernize their facilities right in the heart of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District,” said Stansbury. “Thanks to the CHIPS and Science Act, more than 100 new manufacturing jobs will be created and New Mexico will continue leading the way in technological manufacturing. The future is bright!”

“Not only will this $23.9M investment help strengthen our national security and increase the amount of advanced semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, it will create 100 good paying jobs for New Mexicans,” said Leger Fernández. “With this funding, our satellites won’t be dependent on foreign sources for solar power, and instead use American-manufactured solar cells made from compound semiconductors. Manufacturing is growing in New Mexico and this is exactly the kind of growth we had in mind when we passed the CHIPS and Science Act.”

“These 100 good-paying jobs will support hard-working New Mexicans, while strengthening our national security through domestic semiconductor manufacturing,” said Vasquez. “This funding for SolAero by Rocket Lab will help ensure that vital semiconductors are made in America and solidify New Mexico's role as a leader in space technology. Recognizing New Mexico’s robust workforce and investment potential is crucial, and I will always work to bring good-paying jobs to our state.”

Background on Heinrich’s Leadership on Space-Based Defense:

Through his previous role on the Senate Armed Services Committee and his current role on the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Heinrich has worked for years to establish New Mexico as a world-class ecosystem for commercial and defense space innovation, including an exceptional workforce training pipeline. He has secured numerous investments to support the space missions at New Mexico’s military installations and defense research laboratories, including the Air Force Research Lab, Space Systems Command, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the incoming Space Force Delta 11 Training Mission at Kirtland Air Force Base.

In March, following the President’s signature on the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill, Heinrich announced that he had secured a total of $1.5 billion in military construction funding for New Mexico’s military installations during his tenure in Congress

In the Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Appropriations Bill, specifically, Heinrich secured funding to establish a Space Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis Hub to support simulations of real-world space threats. This Hub will help the U.S. Space Force achieve its 2026 target for delivering maximal operational capability in the form of new, more resilient space systems. He also secured a $7.5 million increase for continued research and development of ground-based satellite infrastructure. 

In 2022, Heinrich served on a conference committee of Senate and House members to finalize what eventually became the CHIPS and Science Act, legislation that is boosting America’s economic competitiveness and addressing supply chain issues.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Heinrich secured an amendment in the Senate Report of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that encouraged the Air Force to explore modular arrays, like the ones manufactured by SolAero, that combine separate power subsystems into a more efficient and cost-effective integrated system in order to accelerate the deployment of small satellites. Heinrich toured SolAero’s facility at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque in 2018.

Background on Luján’s Leadership on Science and Innovation:

In addition to support through the Department of Commerce, the CHIPS and Science Act authorized $17.6 billion for DOE Science and Innovation, including $16.5 billion based on an amendment that Luján authored to strengthen DOE’s research and development efforts in 10 key technology focus areas, including clean energy and energy efficiency, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and quantum information sciences. 

In 2021, Senator Luján led a bipartisan group of his colleagues to ensure the U.S. Department of Energy in addition to the Department of Commerce remains central to our nation’s science and technology competitiveness strategy. Senator Luján secured historic authorization of funds for research and development at the DOE National Laboratories and significant funding to restore and modernize National Lab infrastructure. 

Additional victories secured by Luján include the creation of a nonprofit foundation for energy innovation and robust funding for National Labs to foster the next generation of science and tech entrepreneurs and to help local small businesses access the Labs’ premier facilities.

Background on SolAero by Rocket Lab:

Headquartered in Albuquerque, SolAero is one of two companies domestically, and three companies outside of Russia and China, that specializes in the production of highly efficient and radiation-resistant compound semiconductors called space-grade solar cells—devices used in space to convert light into electricity. 

Rocket Lab's space-grade solar cells power critical space programs such as missile awareness systems and exploratory science missions, including the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s Artemis lunar explorations, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and the Mars Insight Lander. Rocket Lab's technology also serves a booming commercial satellite market, such as powering the OneWeb broadband internet satellite constellation. As the United States and other nations expand their technological presence in space, there is a growing demand for space-grade solar cells. Space-based defense systems are integral to our national security and are completely reliant on solar power.

This proposed CHIPS investment would help create a more robust and resilient supply of space-grade solar cells. The modernization and expansion project will increase their compound semiconductor production by 50% within the next three years—helping to domestically meet the growing national security and consumer demand for these solar cells.

For more information on this proposed CHIPS investment in SolAero, click here