Moderated by Rick Badie
Welcome to the great space race. Georgia, Florida and Texas each hope to land SpaceX, a rocketship company that delivers cargo to the International Space Station. That company would be the first tenant of a proposed “spaceport” in coastal Georgia. For now, though, SpaceX founder Elon Musk calls Texas his top choice. Today, an advocate for space industry development in Georgia says we should be more competitive, while a Texan considers his state an ideal fit for the industry.
Commenting is open.
By Bob Scaringe
Private-sector space companies like SpaceX are launching commercial satellites and resupplying the International Space Station. SpaceX, a space transport company, is evaluating Georgia, Florida and Texas as the location for a $90 million launch site.
The Federal Aviation Administration has licensed 17 spaceports in seven different states, and they all would welcome the SpaceX investment. Yet Georgia state officials do not seem to see the opportunity other states see, despite having what has been described as the “best location for a spaceport in the country” — Camden County, in the southeast part of the state.
Georgia today has less than one-half of a percent market share of an $80 billion space industry. According to the Space Foundation, the commercial space industry is growing by 7 to 12 percent a year as part of a $304 billion global space industry. The U.S. space industry employs 250,000 direct employees and 750,000 indirect employees, according to the FAA. That being the case, every additional 1 percent market share of this $80 billion industry would mean $800 million of additional revenue to Georgia each year, as well as 2,500 direct jobs and 7,500 indirect jobs.
SpaceX engineers prefer to launch from Spaceport Georgia over water rather than over the heart of the U.S. from Texas. And they do not want to wait in line behind NASA and the Air Force to launch from Florida. Georgia could win the state competition. However, Florida and Texas have submitted economic incentive packages to Space X and have aggressively pursued the company at the executive level. Georgia has not yet submitted an offer, nor is it aggressively pursuing the business.
Recently, the One Georgia board turned down a grant request to fund an environmental study required by the FAA for licensing Spaceport Georgia. The state has left Camden County on its own to raise funds, navigate the FAA licensing process and mount a marketing campaign to attract Spaceport tenants. This is not the economic development taxpayers expect.
There is still time for state officials to lead the effort. There is still time to submit a competitive incentive package offer to SpaceX. There is still time to assist Camden County. There is still time for the private sector and the university system to encourage state officials to aggressively pursue this opportunity. Spaceport Georgia will create high-paying jobs, attract suppliers to local industrial parks and serve as a shot in the arm for the entertainment and lodging industries.
SpaceX would be a catalyst for a commercial space industry in this state and create a powerful Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program for students. I urge Gov. Nathan Deal to become the first Georgia governor to develop this industry.
Our geographic location advantages are significant and can kick-start a fast-growing industry. As a commercial space industry engineer observed, “Spaceport Georgia in Camden County can be the best spaceport in the world, or the biggest mistake Georgia has made in generations if not developed.”
Bob Scaringe is founder of the Georgia Space Working Group.
By Wayne Rast
Our colleagues in Florida and Georgia are enthusiastic, energetic and, in the case of Florida, very well-funded by their state. But in Texas, there are many advantages in the race to partner with exciting space companies, both established and new. They include a recognized home for risk-taking entrepreneurs, available advanced research, top universities and a readily available, world-class spaceflight operations workforce.
Florida and Georgia have some of those advantages, but none have them like Texas. Texas also has the trump card of location and geography. More on that later.
The first advantage is a second-to-none business climate, one that works with businesses to say “yes,” not find ways to say “no.” Our jobs and new-business creation during the last decade speaks to this truth. Business owners have been voting with their feet, and they are choosing Texas in record numbers. Texas has no income tax and has a very reasonable, sane regulatory and tort environment. That’s coupled with a can-do spirit that supports dreams as big as Texas.
Groups like the Texas Space Alliance and others are working to make the environment even more conducive and profitable for space businesses, including space launch. Partners are coming together at all levels, from the governor’s office and the Aerospace and Aviation Department. Far-sighted efforts like the recently announced application for spaceport status through the Houston Airport System for Ellington Field, close to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Johnson Space Center, show the wide interest level and vision being developed for Texas’ space future. The effort has charged into high gear across Texas. Space businesses are taking note.
All space launch businesses are realizing their need for understanding every aspect of human spaceflight and mission control. The Johnson Space Center is the recognized world leader in such expertise, and the wealth of the benefits from close access are becoming evident.
However, the main reason why Texas may end up ahead in the launch business is because of the unavoidable rules of orbital mechanics. Increased north latitude requires more energy to reach earth orbit. For the same energy, more payload can be launched from Texas than any of the other proposed sites, which is critical. It is not a coincidence that a Brownsville location, the southernmost point of Texas, is the listed location for a launch site. Current government facilities being used or proposed around the Kennedy Space Center are located in mid-state Florida.
So while clearly multiple and varied spaceport launch locations are definitely in our nation’s space future, we are proud that our Texas-sized efforts to attract space launch may likely be rewarded in the very near future. Texas is open for space business.
Wayne Rast is legislative affairs director for the Texas Space Alliance.