TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Space Florida, the quasi-government agency created to grow the space industry, expects billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk to set up the world’s first private launch facility in Texas.
But Florida officials say the setback will not scuttle efforts to land other private aerospace endeavors as the industry expands.
“While we would have preferred stronger consideration from SpaceX on utilizing a Florida-based commercial launch site, we understand the company’s need for a near-term solution,” Space Florida spokeswoman Tina Lange said in an email this week.
The Texas site is intended to allow SpaceX to carry out up to 12 launches a year for the national space agency as well as private individuals and businesses.
Representative from Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, did not reply to a request for comment.
Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Gov. Rick Scott’s jobs chief, said Thursday he couldn’t discuss talks between the state and SpaceX. However, he added the state has improved its pitch after relying for too many years on the federal government running the aerospace industry.
“Five years ago, six years ago, we probably wouldn’t have been competitive for a lot of what is out there,” Panuccio said. “All the facilities and resources are there. We’re competing. Look, that one hurts, but there are some others we’re getting and we’re going to keep going after.”
The Space Florida acknowledgement came a week after the Federal Aviation Administration gave environmental approval to support the licenses and permits needed to allow SpaceX to use a privately owned site near Brownsville, Texas, to launch the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch vehicles and other reusable suborbital craft.
“We know competing in a global marketplace demands the best business environment to meet commercial payload customers, and right now, Texas has a better commercial launch environment than what Florida can offer, but it is our job to not allow that disadvantage to continue,” Lange said in the email.
The decision comes as Space Florida awaits the results of a similar environmental impact study for the proposed Shiloh Launch Complex, a 150-acre site at the north end of Kennedy Space Center that critics contend includes some of the world’s best scrub habitat.
The private venture was envisioned to help Florida and the Space Coast rebuild its space industry infrastructure as NASA waits for the Space Launch System — with its first test-flight now about three years off — to replace the space shuttle program that was retired in 2011.
SpaceX currently uses Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 for its Falcon 9 launches that ferry supplies to the International Space Station.
This report is by Jim Turner with The News Service of Florida.