Will Florida be ready for its planned massive space growth?
Military, state and business officials speak of a time in the not too distant future – perhaps five years from now – when hundreds of rockets could be launched from Cape Canaveral each year.
Some of the world’s largest satellite and rocket factories are said to be located around the Space Coast, along with more aerospace factories and supply chain companies with thousands of new employees coming from Brevard County and much of the Orlando metro area.
What can it look like?
Not in the sky, but on the ground?
What would that be like at the Kennedy Space Center, the Cape Canaveral space station, and the industrial parks and aerospace offices of Space Florida? How about the aerospace-focused industrial parks and similar offices in Titusville, the Town of Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island and the roads and bridges that connect them?
And what about worker support services – restaurants, stores, gas stations, etc.
For much of the past 60 years, Florida’s Space Coast has experienced periods of economic boom and bust. Until now, it was flown by NASA and the Air Force. And as the space agency’s public and contract workforce grew and shrunk, the federal government and federal taxpayer dollars were doing much of everything.
This time, the boom is driven by the private sector. But there are growing concerns that transportation, utilities and commercial services infrastructure may not be in place to meet anticipated demand and thousands of new jobs for industrial areas surrounded by kilometers of open land, including the most are off-limits to development. .
As a result, officials at Florida’s Space Coast are both excited and nervous.
“It’s a good challenge to take on,” said Lynda Weatherman, president of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “We know that the demand is there, now we have to develop the supply, whether for lunch or to find accommodation.
Just last week Terran Orbital announced plans a 660,000 square foot satellite plant that would employ 2,100 people, located alongside the Space Florida launch and landing facility, well within the secure property of the Kennedy Space Center. It joins several new facilities located in the Cape Canaveral / Merritt Island region in Blue Origin, Firefly Aerospace, OneWeb Satellites and small businesses.
They are all in addition to traditional aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and their partnership United launch alliance, which will become even more active as Nasa and the US space force intensify their new missions.
Others are expected.
“The number of opportunities we have today is double what it was before COVID. And that’s largely because the industry is growing, number one. Second, companies have re-examined their mode of operation during COVID. So they’re looking for improved facilities or looking to (make) investments to cut costs and improve productivity. And Florida is performing very, very well when they look at their next generation of facilities, “he said. declared Florida Space President Frank DiBello. “The third thing is the capital market. He’s noticed what’s going on in space, and there’s a lot of capital available for expansion and growth.
Space Florida, the driving force behind the development of Florida’s aerospace industry, has worked with federal, state, and local governments and organizations like the Space Coast Economic Development Council to at least begin to identify needs and opportunities. This has become particularly critical now, if Joe bidenThe administration is committing to its $ 1.5 trillion national infrastructure program.
“It is essential that we continue to build not only the broader concept of infrastructure, which means all the logistics flow and the roads and things that are needed, power generation, but also a live working environment. and play for the workforce. If we don’t grow our community to meet these needs, it’s a battle we’ll lose in the long run, ”said DiBello.
For the next legislative session, Space Florida and its allied lawmakers are content with a continuing operating budget and perhaps legislation, such as Bill 65 House of the Republican Republic of Merritt Island. Tyler sirois, which would seek to attract even more development by exempting space products from sales taxes.
Meanwhile, the region is looking at infrastructure.
Soon the Florida Department of Transportation will replace the 67-year-old drawbridge that connects the Kennedy Space Center and the NASA Causeway to State Road 405 and Titusville. Preliminary work for the $ 165 million project started, including traffic detours on the bridge.
To meet current and projected industrial demand, a railway bridge across the Indian River needs to be upgraded. The same goes for the Roy G. Bridges Bridge connecting the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Station across the Banana River and the Haulover Canal Bridge to the north on State Road 3.
Studies are also underway on access to transport from the south, from Cape Canaveral town and Merritt Island, through the Port Canaveral canals on national highways 3 and 401, and the review of a increased access to Space Florida’s launch and landing facility from the north, possibly off State Road 402.
There is at least a preliminary study underway on combining several local sewer systems to create a regional sewer authority.
These are woven with concerns for the ecology of the Indian River Lagoon. Work on the bridge, for example, is planned to help mitigate runoff in canals and rivers, Weatherman said.
“The movement of more launch activities is definitely going to put more demands on the infrastructure,” she said. “The reason we are highlighting and perhaps addressing these issues immediately is… this potential for federal government infrastructure funds that may decline. We need to start identifying the use of these funds now, especially for this national asset. “
“Let’s make it a number one priority on behalf of the state,” she added. “We believe this is a unique opportunity to address this very specific problem.
There is also the rocket launch infrastructure, which is now limited to three or four functional launch pads, each dedicated to specific types of rockets and specific rocket companies.
There are many old launch pads along the Cape, but none are usable now. The Space Force wants to redevelop some of them in the form of multi-purpose pads, adaptable to different rockets from different companies. Engineering is difficult, but it has started.
US Space Force Brigadier. Gen. Stephen purdy jr., commander of Space Launch Delta 45 at Patrick Space Force Base, which manages the launch facilities for the Cape Canaveral space station, said earlier this month that he expects demand of up to 200 launches per year within five years.
It is not sure whether he or NASA will have the launch pads for them.
“We’re in danger if we go through our normal processes and dedicate a single block to a single launch vendor… I’m going to have to say to multiple organizations, ‘Hey, sorry, we’ve done source selection and you’ve all lost. and you’re going to have to go pitch somewhere else, ”Purdy said.
Space Florida is also working on the development of a few launch pads at Cape Canaveral Space Station – Launch Pads 20 and 46 – primarily for small rockets, which are expected to become very common, very soon.
Then there’s the human support, which, for now, is mostly limited to cafeterias and corporate services, or small NASA and Space Force facilities. Beyond that, workers will have to travel many miles, across these bridges, to get to Titusville, Merritt Island, or the town of Cape Canaveral.
“Right now there are a lot of people working there and there aren’t a lot of places to eat,” said Dale ketcham, Head of Strategic Alliances at Space Florida.
“We participated in a study to assess what are the critical needs of the workforce, from childcare to hair salons, restaurants, healthcare facilities, banks, all of this to better map demand, so we can help get the data and facilitate the coming of the commercial sector, ”said Ketcham.
Weatherman said EDC is already in talks with some private companies about the opening, even if it’s just to attract food trucks for beginners.
“It will be adjusted,” she said.
Weatherman said downtown Brevard towns are booming and the county and state are working to clean up the Indian River Lagoon.
“The importance of this is to attract, like everyone else, our competition, trying to attract the young professional, the talent. You’re going to need a quality of life in a community where these people want to come and, as they say, live, work and play, ”Weatherman said.