Titusville's Space Industry Is Vital to Local Economy

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On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 08:23
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Taking up space is good busi­ness in Titusville. For more than 50 years, the world has watched hundreds of spacecraft lift off from the Kennedy Space Center. More than 17,000 jobs are tied to KSC, and space tourism remains as robust as ever with 1.5 million people visiting the site each year. But changes are in the air. The last space shuttle will launch in 2010, and a new generation of spacecraft, the Constellation, won’t be ready until 2015. About 2,500 jobs connected to the current shuttle are expected to be cut, so the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast is looking for ways to retain and attract more com­panies to the area to help offset these upcoming job eliminations. EDC officials say they are focusing on different methods to keep the space tourism sector strong and hope to attract several companies that will be working on the Constellation. “The EDC’s first effort in approaching the transition was to successfully recruit Lockheed Martin’s CEV [Crew Exploration Vehicle] to the Space Coast,” says Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “Our staff, including a team of veteran space consultants, worked to convince Lockheed Martin that Brevard County was the right choice for this project.” Weatherman points out that even though rockets have blasted off from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center since 1958, not a single vehicle has been built within Florida’s border. That will now change with the production and assembly of the CEV Constellation. “The associated engineering, assem­bly, administration, technical services, supplies, consulting, design, mainte­nance and other required activities in the chain – that will all occur within the Space Coast for the very first time,” she says. “The resources and infrastructure that will evolve as a result of CEV will establish Florida as a center for space vehicle production for the future. It will, in effect, create a whole new industry.” Besides the new shuttle, the EDC has been working to attract companies that are seeking opportunities to launch other space components. One recent success story is SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies), a company that will launch its Falcon 9 rockets from Kennedy Space Center. Those rockets will reduce the cost and increase the availability of space access, including transporting humans to space stations. Other companies that have recently relocated along the Space Coast include Zero Gravity Corp., which has established the Florida Microgravity Education and Research Center. One of the center’s missions is to accelerate and promote aerospace education for students in Florida. Another company, SpaceTEC, is providing post-secondary education for aerospace employees who want to become certified aerospace technicians. The National Aerospace Technical Education Center is based at Brevard Community College and housed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. “These are a few of the recent recruit­ment success stories, and we look for many more along the Space Coast,” Weatherman says. “We have plenty of space here for space industries.”