• Lauren Napier

Florida’s Aerospace Economy – From Apollo to Today

During the last nine months living in Florida, I have developed a renewed appreciation for the importance of the space sector in my home state, and it was not just because of the Apollo 11 anniversary.

In the build-up to the Apollo 11 anniversary in July, everywhere you looked – commercials, magazines, social media, and even snacks – something was connected to the Moon, or Apollo 11. It was great to see everyone so excited about space again. However, the space sector has not gone anywhere. It didn’t end with the Apollo missions, or the last shuttle launch, it is still alive and well in Florida and many other parts of the US. The aerospace sector is a fast-growing sector with support from the rising inclusion of the so-called ‘new space’ sector. Florida, dripping with space history and a space economy, is a strong example of how a state – or region – can benefit from space exploration and space applications through a robust job market and a strong aerospace economy.

According to reporter Ken Willis of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “in Daytona Beach, General Electric built an engineering plant fully dedicated to its Apollo assignment, and eventually 3,000 people worked there.”[1] Overall there were more than 400,000 workers involved with the Apollo missions.[2] “From ditch diggers to engineers, from plumbers to rocket scientists.”[3] From an article in Florida Trend magazine, “Apollo profoundly affected Brevard County," says historian Gary Mormino. Brevard went from 16,000 people in 1940 to a quarter of a million by 1970 and 590,000 today.”[4] It took all kinds of professions and skills to land astronauts on the Moon. Something Floridians, such as myself, take pride in even today.

“Today, the space race is back, driven by the government but enabled by private companies that are bringing jobs, prestige and challenges to Florida.” This includes companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, Airbus, United Launch Alliance, and more situated at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center. However, there are numerous companies positioned all over Florida that are working in the aviation and space sectors, growing the economy of Florida and the job market.

According to Space Florida (Florida’s aerospace economic development organization), in 2018, they were able to “recruit, retain and/or expand 21 space and aerospace-related companies and approximately 3,480 jobs averaging a $104,941 annual salary.”[5] Furthermore, “Florida consistently ranks in the top five U.S. states for aerospace industry employment, with more than 130,000 employees in 2017. More than 17,144 aerospace-related companies call Florida home, contributing $19 billion in revenues to Florida’s economy.”[6]

Additionally, Florida boasts two spaceports – the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and the Cecil Field Spaceport – which are both Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensed spaceports. Florida is also unique in that it has the capacity to launch and land horizontally as well as vertically thanks to the Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) which was formally used for the space shuttle programme.[7]

The future looks bright for Florida’s ever-expanding space economy. Recently, OneWeb opened a factory near Cape Canaveral “designed to produce two internet-delivery spacecraft per day.”[8] Further, Space Florida was awarded a $90 million grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation “to help pay for replacement of the aging Indian River Bridge along State Road 405, a road that leads to Kennedy Space Center and the KSC Visitor Complex”[9] and in order to provide infrastructure for a growing space economy.

The opinions expressed in these blogs posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centre for a Spacefaring Civilization or anyone else.

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[1] Willis, Ken. (Sunday, July 21, 2019). Our Men on the Moon. The Daytona News-Journal. Section A.

[2] Willis, Ken. (Sunday, July 21, 2019). Our Moon Shot. The Daytona News-Journal. Special Apollo 11 Commemorative Edition. Accessible online via: http://gatehousenews.com/apollo11/man-on-the-moon/site/news-journalonline.com

[3] Willis, Ken. (Sunday, July 21, 2019). Our Moon Shot. The Daytona News-Journal. Special Apollo 11 Commemorative Edition. Accessible online via: http://gatehousenews.com/apollo11/man-on-the-moon/site/news-journalonline.com

[4] Vogel, Mike. (March 2019). Renaissance on the Space Coast. Florida Trend. Pgs. 60 – 72.

[5] Space Florida. (2018). 2018 Annual Report. Downloaded via: https://www.spaceflorida.gov/about/annual-reports/

[6] Space Florida. (2019). Why Florida + Facts & Figures. Accessed online via: https://www.spaceflorida.gov/

[7] For more information about the LLF, visit the Space Florida website via: https://www.spaceflorida.gov/facilities/llf/

[8] Harwood, William. (July 22, 2019). Space-based internet the focus of new OneWeb Florida satellite factory. CBS News. Digital article retrieved via: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oneweb-satellite-factory-florida-space-based-internet/

[9] Berman, Dave. (July 25, 2019). $90 million federal grant approved to replace aging bridge to Kennedy Space Center. Florida Today. Digital article retrieved via: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2019/07/25/90-million-federal-grant-go-replacement-bridge-ksc/1832181001/

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