Space industry descends on Florida state capitol to promote spaceflight awareness
TALLAHASSE, Fla — It is not every day that you see representatives from what were just a day prior highly-competitive companies sit down and work together for a common goal. Such is the power of Florida Space Day. On Wednesday, March 12, representatives from Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and other prominent aerospace firms grouped into teams and worked to impart the importance of space matters to Florida’s legislature.
The event, started the evening prior with opening remarks made by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, Space Florida’s President Frank Dibello and Abacus Technology’s Patty Stratton. The nearly 20 separate teams were then provided with their marching orders and began organizing for the following day.
The importance of this year’s Florida Space Day was increased with the rise of space ports at other locations, in other states across the nation. A fact underscored by one of the leaders of this annual effort.
“I call it our, ‘we are not alone’ – campaign and I’m not talking about aliens or UFOs – there are a number of states who would like to assume the same role that Florida has had for the past 50 years,” said Space Florida’s President and CEO Frank DiBello.
One member of the Florida Legislature pointed out that, in his view, the State of Florida has been very good to the space industry.
“If we had the amount of support in Washington that we have in Florida in terms of space? We’d be on Mars by now!” said Senator Thad Altman.
Each of the teams spent the day meeting with Florida State representatives to provide them with information as to how important the space industry is to the state as a whole. Almost all of the state’s 67 counties benefits from the aerospace industry’s presence.
While the public is aware of Kennedy Space Center and the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the chain of locations which support space flights branches out to include, Cecil Spaceport, Cape San Blas and Space Florida Spaceport.
“The aerospace industry realizes that on this day we’re working toward a common purpose, a common goal – and that is to serve the future,” said United Launch Alliance’s Tony Taliancich.
The closing ceremony was attended by Altman, as well as State Representatives Steve Crisafulli, Ronald “Doc” Renuart, Mike La Rosa, Victor M. Torres Jr., Matt Alford, Linda Stewart, Ricardo Rangel and numerous other state officials, with strong expressions of support expressed by those in attendance.
Although NASA’s efforts are what most associate with Florida’s Space Coast and Brevard County the recipient of much of that attention – there is more to space than NASA and more Florida counties than just Brevard are impacted by the array of program’s that take to the skies off Cape Canaveral.
It has been estimated that approximately 20,400 businesses who contribute to the aerospace industry employ 141,500 workers within the state which generate almost $20 billion in annual revenue. Florida places second in the nation in terms of the amount of jobs which directly relate to the space industry. Those include jobs in the aviation, aerospace and defense industries.
The State of Florida has reaped the benefits from its close relationship to spaceflight. NASA alone awarded contracts within the state which were estimated as being worth more than $572 million last year alone. This however is just a drop in the bucket. The Space Agency creates a powerful footprint in the Sunshine State with a total estimated economic impact of more than $2 billion annually – which encompass some 16,500 jobs. These are not low-paying jobs either, with an average wage estimated at being more than $77,000 a year.
Florida’s position at the pinnacle of space launch operations is not secure. There are a number of other states, most notably Virginia who has benefitted from an agreement with Orbital Sciences Corporation, who are emerging as alternate sites from which various spacecraft can be sent on missions into the black.
“We are really going to have to fight to compete with states such as Texas, New Mexico, California, Virginia and others who want what we have here in Florida,” DiBello said.
By all accounts the event was successful with many of the state representatives expressing their continued support for the space infrastructure within the State of Florida.
Video courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.