Florida officials turn to commercial space

As the shuttle program winds down, Florida politicians appear to be increasingly turning to commercial space as a way to mitigate the feared economic dislocation the state, and the Space Coast specifically, will experience once the shuttle retires.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Sen. Bill Nelson will promote the job-creating potential of commercial space in a speech later today at the Kennedy Space Center. Nelson, the Sentinel states, will state that commercial space companies could create 1,700 jobs in the state if NASA funds development of systems to provide commercial crew transportation for the ISS. The number is based on a press release issued in September by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), which included the 1,700 jobs among over 5,000 nationwide that commercial crew development could create, based on a survey of CSF member comapnies. The Sentinel argue warns, though, that unnamed “observers and industry experts” caution that the CSF estimate could be inflated.

Meanwhile, Governor Charlie Crist (who is also running for the US Senate) paid a visit to Cecil Field during a trip to Jacksonville, just two days after the former naval air station received a commercial spaceport license from the FAA. “It’s a wonderful accomplishment to have an opportunity to get into the commercial space industry,” he said, as quoted by the Florida Times-Union, adding that he thinks the newly-minted spaceport has advantages over places like Spaceport America or Mojave Air and Space Port. “Where would you rather be? In the middle of a desert, or here on the First Coast?” However, as I noted earlier this week, the license sharply restricts the types of vehicles that can use it (no vertically-launched vehicles, for example), and those companies that are developing vehicles either have agreed to use other spaceports (like Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America) or have run into financial problems that has slowed or stopped development (like Rocketplane Global). So Gov. Crist and the Jacksonville area shouldn’t count on spaceflights, and their attendant jobs, just yet.

1 comment to Florida officials turn to commercial space

  • common sense

    Not sure if we should read anything in Sen. Nelson intended speech in favor of commercial space but I’ll try anyway: Ares I is formally dead. Nothing being planned in the immediate future to fly out of KSC once the Shuttle is retired the only remaining option is commercial flights.

    I am surprised that this was left out of the article even though I realize it only is hear-say:
    “Obama administration officials and aerospace industry executives say that the White House is considering investing up to $3 billion in commercial space over four years as part of a revamping of the agency’s current human space exploration plans.”

    But what to make of this article as it wrongfully states: ” A White House blue ribbon panel reviewing NASA’s human spaceflight plans suggested that the administration should ditch Ares I because it faced serious technical problems and was too expensive.” I don’t remember the Augustine panel saying so. I assume that is the panel the article is referring to?

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