2021: FLORIDA AEROSPACE

AEROSPACE & DEFENSE | FOCUS: FROM NASA TO SPACEX

From Palm Beach to Pensacola, Florida continues to attract the biggest names in aerospace.

Titusville, Florida/USA - May 30, 2020: The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts lifted off on the company's Falcon 9 rocket at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Shutterstock / YES Market Media


Florida has a long history of hosting the aerospace industry.

Apollo 8, which carried the first humans to walk on the moon, was launched from none other than Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Often referred to as the gateway to space, Florida has become an important center for all things aerospace, from training to manufacturing to research and development.

But aerospace activity in the Sunshine State has reached impressive heights in recent years.

Florida has consistently been ranked among the top five US states for employment in the industry, with a recent estimate tallying 132,000 employees in the sector. Additionally, the state hosts more than 11,600 companies working in aerospace, which have in total contributed more than USD17.7 billion in revenue to the state's economy.

The state boasts a vibrant supply chain as well as a talented pool of human capital.

It is the unrivaled accessibility Florida offers that has led major companies in the sector – including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Embraer – to establish a significant presence in the state.

The state government has long been committed to working with the private sector to encourage the economic development of the aerospace industry.

Florida hosts several important hubs for the industry, such as small satellite development in Gainesville; rocket engines and advanced helicopter systems manufacturing in West Palm Beach; navigation and guidance control systems development in Orlando and Clearwater; rocket launching and landing capabilities at its two licensed space ports at Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville; and maintenance, repair, and overhaul centers located throughout the state, in Miami, Jacksonville, Melbourne, and Pensacola.

State efforts are primarily directed through Space Florida, a government body equipped with an arsenal of support offerings for the industry. It offers services such as equipment financing, infrastructure funding, and access to additional loan types. It also provides assistance in recruitment and training support for the industry through its employment partners throughout the state.

Since 2000, the total value of financing transactions conducted by Space Florida has surpassed USD500 million, providing a means for both established and emerging firms to defer upfront capital costs.

Such an impressive profile has made Florida a center for innovation as well. In January 2021, German electric air taxi firm Lilium announced it had formed a partnership with Spanish airport builder and operator Ferrovial to build vertiports throughout the state.

The firm had previously announced that it had chosen Florida as a starting point for its US operations. The plan will see the construction of at least 10 vertiports in what Lilium calls “strategic locations," which it claims will put all 20 million Floridians within 30 minutes of a vertiport. The company expects to carry its first commercial passengers in 2024, and will surely seek to provide the state's more than 120 million tourists with a high-speed option to travel between Florida's many attractions.

In an industry first, SpaceX announced in February 2021 that it plans to launch an all civilian space mission from Cape Canaveral before the start of 2022. Four civilian astronauts will be launched into orbit in a SpaceX Dragon capsule in a mission dubbed Inspiration4.

The nascent commercial space industry is expected to grow rapidly over the coming decade, and it is a business Space Florida is particular keen on keeping in Florida. The state is also hopeful that it will be able to be able to host operations and facilities for the newly formed US Space Force. While the US Airforce had chosen Alabama as the location for the Space Force headquarters, or SPACECOM, Florida is working winning the bid for the Space Training and Readiness Command center, or STARCOM, which when built will provide training, education and unit testing for Space Force.

In addition to hosting many of the biggest names in the aerospace industry, Florida is also an attractive potential destination for the facility as building costs are around 20% lower than the median for the rest of the US. Potential benefits of hosting STARCOM include more than 2,200 direct and indirect jobs and as much as USD1 billion in construction contracts.