Space
Opinion

Space: Florida’s Future

Over the past several years, America’s space sector has quietly undergone a massive expansion of its size. Florida has been at the forefront of this progress, with the aerospace industry pouring jobs and money into the state.

Ideally, this is the century in which humans shall become a spacefaring civilization. A confluence of factors have put the U.S. at the crux of nations participating in this push, ensuring Florida will continue to gain from this new era in space. 

Congress Shapes Forthcoming Years

Lost in the backlog of legislation stalled in Congress is a popular bill that has already passed one chamber. For months, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, worked on a roughly $250 billion bill to drastically increase funding for science and technology that eventually morphed into the United States Innovation and Competition Act. 

The impetus for this bill came from the urgent need for the U.S. to compete with China as well as a growing realization that federal investment in key sectors was a national security priority. On June 8, after months of negotiations and votes, Schumer successfully passed that bill on a bipartisan basis, 68-32.

It is worth noting that this bill, which promises to create thousands of good-paying jobs in Florida, received ‘Nay’ votes from obstructionists Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Rick Scott, R-Florida. Their votes add further black marks to their lengthy records of ignoring their constituents.

One senator who did have the common sense to vote for USICA is Mark Warner, D-Virginia. In a statement provided to the Florida Political Review, he proudly called it “crucial for American development and advancement, not just in the space realm but in the broader technology realm.” He noted that it “would make one of the largest federal investments in science, technology and manufacturing in decades.”

This bill is expected by many analysts to be the catalyst for a much-needed spike in Americans taking jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math sectors. These jobs form the backbone of the space industry, and this spike should keep the U.S. far ahead of China in space.

Warner has unique expertise in this area. Virginia is home to the Wallops Flight Facility, which launches the Antares rocket to the International Space Station, conducts science missions with sounding rockets, and launches payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office on repurposed ICBMs. As Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, he understands the challenges posed by China better than most.

Warner also pointed out that “competing with foreign entities like China in the technology industry is crucial if we want the United States to remain a leader on the world stage,” and “getting USICA signed into law will be a key part of that.”

In Florida, these space jobs will jumpstart the already-rejuvenated economy of the Cape Canaveral area — showcasing in colossal size the effect that Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies has already had on the area.

However, some waiting is now in order. The House passed its own bill in response to the USICA, and both bills are now being revised in a conference committee to reach an agreement amenable to all sides. Prospects for the final law are unknown, but the future looks promising.

Public and Private Progression

Meanwhile, as USICA makes its way through Congress, NASA and the private sector have moved forward at escape velocity.

NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration program — including the much-anticipated Artemis Program to put Americans back on the moon — supported over 69,000 jobs and generated over $14 billion in fiscal year 2019 alone. This was before the Biden administration came in and proposed a $1.5 billion increase for NASA’s budget outside of any USICA-style legislation. The Artemis program is expected to inspire young Americans, the ‘Artemis Generation,’ to take jobs in the STEM sector.

NASA has continued U.S. leadership in space, and though China has made much progress in space over the past few years, NASA’s resourceful and loyal workforce has ensured they remain ahead. This was most recently illustrated in 2021 — while NASA was flying a helicopter and aiming to send soil samples back to Earth (part of the Mars 2020 mission launched from Florida). China had only arrived at the Red Planet for the first time that same year.

This is not all. A NASA official stated to the Florida Political Review that “NASA’s partnership with American private industry is changing the arc of space flight history by opening access to more people, more science, and more commercial opportunities.” This could not be more true.

SpaceX, of Hawthorne, California, has decisively wrenched the commercial sector from European rival Arianespace, and it has taken 40% of the market for U.S. national security payloads, competing against Denver-based United Launch Alliance. It has been launching humans — including tourists, come spring — to the ISS: achievements only made possible with NASA funding, which now sustain jobs key to the Florida economy. 

Perhaps we should thank NASA Administrator and former. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, for his foresight when he got the 2010 NASA Authorization Act passed. That paved the way for NASA’s partnership with the commercial space industry.

NASA and governmental funding have ensured the reinvigorated commercial space industry has followed SpaceX’s lead. ULA is expected to increase its launch cadence and bring more jobs to Brevard County with the inception of its Vulcan Centaur rocket later this year. Concurrently, satellite manufacturer Terran Space is bringing 2,000 jobs to the Kennedy Space Center when it opens the world’s largest satellite factory.

Relatively inexperienced newcomers are also bringing jobs. Blue Origin and Astra Space have big plans for Brevard County, with Astra beginning to launch rockets from Cape Canaveral and Blue Origin slowly building up its own Floridian infrastructure.

Clearly, Florida has a lot to look forward to as it continues to be the center of the space industry. As we continue to explore the final frontier, thousands more jobs will be created and with them, the potential for a future in which space is a destination, a laboratory and an economy for all of us.

Check out other recent articles from Florida Political Review here.

Featured image: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it carries out the CSG-2 mission. Photo by Charles Horowitz.

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