Profit in space?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Space, the profitable frontier? Some say it could be for a state’s economy, especially down South. Georgia recently made a bid to land Space X, a rocket ship company, as the inaugural tenant of a proposed “spaceport” in Camden County. Today, a guest columnist says creation of a commercial space industry bodes well for Georgia, while the other writer encourages state officials to embrace a golden opportunity.

South Georgia needs space

By Michael Mealling

I grew up in Tifton and Brunswick and have family in Waycross, Moultrie, and Savannah. I drive through that part of the state and see small towns dying. The proposed spaceport in Camden County is the best opportunity to help South Georgia’s economy. We should do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

When NASA was looking for a location to launch rockets in the early 1960s, a group of Georgia businessmen promoted southeast Georgia as a potential site. Their proposal ran a close second to sites in Florida. After a great deal of discussion, visits and evaluation, NASA decided to locate its facility at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Prior to that selection, eastern central Florida was very empty with only 17,000 people. Since then, the Kennedy Space Center has grown to become the world’s leading space launch facility, a tourist attraction that helped spur the population’s growth to 700,000. Imagine if NASA had chosen southeast Georgia instead.

Had that decision been made, Georgia would be the nation’s leading space launch location. Our coast would have received legions of tourists. The high-paying, high-tech jobs created by the space industry would be in this state.

Very seldom in life do you get a second chance, but now Georgia is getting a do-over. Several years ago, NASA decided to push launches to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) into the commercial arena. NASA will still do research into deep space and government-related launches, but LEO activities will be done by commercial companies.

These companies need a location for commercial launches. Government launch sites like Kennedy give priority to government needs, and commercial lift-offs take a back seat. If commercial launch is to move into the mainstream, private operators need a site that puts the priority on commercial needs.

Georgia has what some have called the perfect location. The Camden County site meets every requirement the commercial launch industry needs. Flights happen over the ocean; weather permits year-round operations; population is limited, and cities and infrastructure are close enough to be accessible.

An industry insider recently told a state representative, “In real estate, it’s location, location, location. You have the best location in the country for a commercial spaceport. If you develop it right, you will have the best commercial spaceport in the country, possibly the world. If you don’t, it will be the biggest mistake in 10 generations.”

Who would have thought in 1960 that Cape Canaveral would become what it is today? Georgia missed out on that opportunity 50 years ago. Texas and Florida see this opportunity and are aggressively going after it with resources, including cash incentives. Spaceport Georgia is being lead by a small county with few resources. Georgia has been given a second chance for something very special. Decisions are being made now by companies like SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace.

For the sake of cities like Jesup, Woodbine and Blackshear, Gov. Nathan Deal and the state economic development office should do everything possible to attract these companies. The future of South Georgia depends on it.

Michael Mealling is president of the Georgia Space Society.

Embrace the commercial space industry

By Bob Scaringe

Aerospace transport companies like Space X are drastically reducing the cost to launch payloads into low earth orbit. XCOR Aerospace Inc. is drastically reducing the cost per tourist of a sub-orbital flight, and Bigelow Aerospace is launching inflatable space habitats intended for tourism, with one of the first to be installed on the International Space Station.

You may be surprised to know that all of these companies are interested in locating and launching from Spaceport Georgia in Camden County.

An A.T. Kearney study commissioned by the California Space Authority, a now-defunct nonprofit, quantified the U.S. space market as between $70 billion to $82 billion in 2009 and the global market at more than twice that amount. Looking at the space market, we can see a ripple effect as the direct investment in the space industry is multiplied through suppliers.

Another report says the economic impact of the space industry was $277 billion in 2010, a yearly increase of 12 percent. The report also cited the U.S. space industry as a supporter of more than 1 million jobs.

It is reasonable to assume that if Georgia initiated a serious market development effort, a 1 to 3 percent increase in U.S. space market share is feasible in three to five years. In an $80 billion space industry, a 1 percent market share increase equals $800 million of additional direct investment in Georgia. How many other markets is the state pursuing that match that kind of potential?

Georgia has been described by two commercial space companies as “the best location on the East Coast for launch.” The Camden County Spaceport site has been referred to as “a gold mine.” The location launches to the east over water. Forty-eight other states wish they had our geographic location to launch and logistically support launches in Florida and Georgia.

Georgia Tech produces more aerospace engineers than any other program in the country, providing a future Georgia space industry employer the luxury of a robust pipeline of engineers. Blue-collar skills in the Georgia aeronautics industry have crossover application in the space industry. Georgia is a right-to-work state; California, Colorado and Washington, where a lot of the space industry is currently located, are not. By any metric, Georgia has a strong story to tell a potential space industry employer.

The probability of Georgia increasing market share by 1 or 2 percent in the next few years is pretty high if the state simply commits to developing the space industry. The space market’s $80 billion size and Georgia’s current market share make this opportunity worth the investment.

Space is an industry of the future. It offers diversification to the aeronautics industry, and it will some day morph into a transportation industry.

The space market is real. Georgia can win against other states.

Bob Scaringe is chairman of the Georgia Space Working Group.

16 comments Add your comment

nelson

April 17th, 2013
8:52 am

I will be very candid with you, I never thought of Georgia as a potential space center. I see it as a marvelous opportunity. Commercial space exploration. Let us fund it with Casino gambling, no fund it with grants from the federal government.
Actually, with terrorism, global unrest, fiscal chaos, outer space maybe the new destination for those looking for a new environoment where all is harmony and peace.
I still like casino gambling and a new deep water harbor at Savannah.
I am looking at Jekyll Island as my destination this fall.

Bernie

April 17th, 2013
9:48 am

The subject matter of this editorial is Laughable when Most rural Georgians still think that the MOONLANDING was a Hollywood stunt and a government conspiracy to fool the world.

These are the same people who think that science is from Satan and if God wanted Man in space he would have given him wings!

Surely the good ole Boys down at the DOME have not been brought up to speed on this proposal. For they surely would want to put some Laws on the Books to make sure all of YOU EGG HEADS and SMART FOLKS are not planning any experiments they may deem offensive.

Not to worry Probing is OK!

They have already agreed as a legislative body that is what the women of Georgia need, when they consider birth terminations.

MrLiberty

April 17th, 2013
10:26 am

Private commercial ventures are just that – private. The private investors should sink or swim on their own business plans and the government should keep its nose and most importantly, its (well, the taxpayers) money out of it.

People praise everything that came out of the decades-long space program without fully appreciating that while a few positive inventions were derived from that tremendously large expense, the potential alternative benefits can never be measured. We all know that government projects involve great waste, little oversight, and completely lack any profit or cost-benefit motivation or analysis (how can they?). So while hundreds of talented engineers and technicians were working on sending men into space, what could they have been working on? If private businesses had to weight the costs versus benefits (mostly political in this case) of these programs, would there really have been any money spent? And again, had that money remained in the hands of the private sector and its investors, what inventions, advances, etc. might we have been blessed with instead. Sure, we have thousands of satellites spying on our every move and multi-million dollar toilets on a floating hotel in space for privileged government employees from around the globe, but what about stuff for the people who footed the bill?

If private space flight finds a great home in GA, more power to them. But much like the many rockets that blow up on the launch pad, this one may too and there is absolutely NO justification for GA tax dollars to blow up with it.

Larry Russell

April 17th, 2013
10:27 am

I went to Tech and grew up in Jacksonville. This wouldn’t be bad for NE Florida, either. Governor Deal should do a deal with Gov. Scott to get behind this vs. Texas. We still remember how Lyndon Johnson “stole” the Houston space center from Florida to put it in his home state.

MANGLER

April 17th, 2013
10:47 am

Yeah I never really would have considered southeast Georgia ripe for anything other than retired Northerners driving from Florida wanting to pay a few cents less per gallon as they drive back to the Northeast for the Summer.
Go for it. It can be considered the “6th runway” at Hartsfield for the commercial space travelers.
It’s thinking like this that actually helps an area and it’s State to progress. That alone should kill the idea at the Gold Dome.

SAWB

April 17th, 2013
12:12 pm

With Boeing, Gulfstream and the US Military already located in the general area this seems like a great opportunity to grow the aerospace and defense industries. Georgia has a pretty friendly business environment compared to some other States and GaTech remains one of the top engineering schools in the world. So, why not?

Michael Mealling

April 17th, 2013
1:12 pm

MrLiberty,
While philosophically I agree with you I’m afraid the world just doesn’t work that way right now. States are competing for these companies aggressively and for the state to not play the game would harm our economy greatly. That said I think these things should have a significant return on investment analysis. In this case the return to south Georgia is more than just about anything else we could do. Especially since SpaceX has a diversified customer base. It has government AND private customers so if a budget gets cut or the economy takes a downturn the company doesn’t cut half its workforce.

Bernie

April 17th, 2013
1:49 pm

From reading these comments, You guys might as well be talking to the WALL!

The Clown Posse at the GOLD Dome would look glaring at you with the dumbest look, as if to say “What in the HECK of ALL that is HOLY, are you Talking about it?

What’s in it FER ME? and would JAYSUS approve of it? Would be the next response? That is ALL they want to know, Period!

Bernie

April 17th, 2013
1:50 pm

Correction:

From reading these comments, You guys might as well be talking to the WALL!

The Clown Posse at the GOLD Dome would look glaring at you with the dumbest look, as if to say “What in the HECK of ALL that is HOLY, are you Talking about?

What’s in it FER ME? and would JAYSUS approve of it? Would be the next response? That is ALL they want to know, Period!

Centrist

April 17th, 2013
3:52 pm

We are building a new dome for the Falcons and other events, and will likely to make another Olympic bid based on such economic math that is often refuted.

The state entices other businesses to open facilities here with tax breaks and infrastructure, but has so far not committed to this project. Why?

Michael Mealling

April 17th, 2013
4:46 pm

Centrist,
There was some reluctance to get out in front of the environmental impact statement that is currently in progress but I don’t think we can wait. Since the site in question was previously used to manufacture pesticides, putting a space port there would actually improve the environment of the site. You can help move things along by sending an email to the Governor’s office asking them to put everything behind the effort.

Shamehia

April 17th, 2013
5:12 pm

The State needs to be all over this project like a duck on a june bug, it would seem to be a win-win across the board.

It could even help accelerate Newt’s dream of colonizing the moon.

Samantha

April 17th, 2013
8:55 pm

I agree 100% with Larry Russell – this needs to be bigger news in Jacksonville, as it would impact us more than expansion at KSC. And both FL and GA lose if the business goes to Texas. Is it possible to get a partnership together?

Ismael Moriwaki

April 17th, 2013
11:19 pm

That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

Peaches In Space!!! — Peach Pundit

April 18th, 2013
8:03 am

[...] into space if we land a bid for SpaceX to build a spaceport.  Michael Mealing and Bob Scaringe pen two separate editorial’s on Rick Badie’s AJC blog.  According to Michael, Georgia was the 2nd choice for the spaceport now in Cape Canaveral, FL [...]

Camden County Native

April 18th, 2013
10:29 am

It is high time the folks in the ATL need to know that there is another state outside of I-285.
Coastal GA is Georgia’s next economic engine and we deserve resources to help us get there. We have been ignored for far too long.

Time to realize there are others in this state besides folks in Atlanta.