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Florida Sets Its Sights On A New Era In Space

SpaceX Falcon 9.
SpaceX Falcon 9.

Could Florida be the base for a new branch of the military to handle threats in space?

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis asked President Trump to place the headquarters for the new Space Force Combatant Command in Cape Canaveral, tweeting that it would be “a logical fit” for the state.

WMFE’s Space Reporter Brendan Byrne said Friday on The Florida Roundup that having Space Command headquarters in the state would indeed be a natural progression for a fast growing space industry in Florida.

“The resources are already here, [the] private companies that could be defense contractors for a space force are already in place,” he said.

In December, Vice President Mike Pence appeared at Kennedy Space Center to announce Trump’s intent to create a new sixth branch of the armed forces. The U.S. Space Force comes partly in response to moves by China and Russia to hack and disrupt U.S. satellites, he said, and “will oversee all military activities in space.”

Last week Trump signed Directive-4, calling on the Secretary of Defense to develop a legislative proposal to establish the force. At least initially, it will be placed within the Department of the Air Force.

In a letter sent to Trump last Tuesday, DeSantis highlighted Florida’s military might and growing commercial space industry, which he said provides jobs for nearly 100,000 Floridians in over 470 aerospace and aviation companies in the state.

The last eight years have indeed seen “consistent growth in the private space industry,” Byrne said.

After Nasa's iconic space shuttle program ended in 2011, resulting in the loss of nearly 10,000 jobs in Florida, Governor Rick Scott pushed to privatize the industry. The following years saw dozens of private projects announced on the Space Coast.

Byrne reported last week that Space Florida, the agency responsible for courting private space business to Florida, is seeking $7 million over the next year to help secure funding for future projects and developments. State resources have been key to getting private companies like SpaceX to settle to the Space Coast.

On Thursday night, an Israeli spacecraft launched to the moon from Cape Canaveral. And on Friday, DeSantis announced that another private space company, Firefly Aerospace, will soon call Cape Canaveral home, creating a $52 million facility and some 200,000 jobs.

And it’s not just the Space Coast that’s setting its sights on space.

At Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, officials have been working since 2010 to lay the groundwork for the future of commercial space travel. According to Todd Lindner, who runs the Spaceport, Cecil will see its first launch before the end of the year and two at the beginning of 2020.

“One thing we’ve always said here ... is we would never be Cape Kennedy or Cape Canaveral,” he said. “We always wanted to serve in the capacity of being a complement to them. As time goes on we see a lot of overflow from the needs and demands at the Cape actually coming our direction.”

Florida’s currently seeing one launch per week, Lindner says, adding that “the industry is growing leaps and bounds.”

Beyond being the potential future home of the Space Force, Lindner hinted that Florida could also soon see its first space tourists blast into orbit. 

The cost? 

"That's up to the launch operator," he said.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Jessica Weiss
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