Gov. Ron DeSantis meets with aerospace leaders to sign Space Florida bill

Florida governor meeting with OneWeb, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX

Blue Origin’s rocket factory just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center. (Image: Emilee Speck/WKMG)

Gov. Ron DeSantis met with aerospace leaders in Merritt Island Thursday to sign a bill providing more incentives for space companies to come to Florida for the state’s spaceport authority.

The Florida governor’s visit to the Space Coast comes about two hours after the successful launch of NASA’s next Mars rover, named Perseverance. The spacecraft carrying the mission is on its way to Mars for a February arrival.

The event was held Space Florida headquarters during which the governor signed House bill 717 that provides Space Florida more wiggle room to lure companies to the state.

“The bill will provide Space Florida with additional flexibility to issue bonds and provide financing for commercial space and aerospace projects,” DeSantis said.

Space Florida will be able to offer 30 year bonds instead of 40 year making them more attractive to investors, according to the governor. The bill also streamlines certain bond proposal notification requirements

“This new tool in the toolkit will greatly enhance the state’s ability to access private capital markets to finance new infrastructure for both commercial aerospace industry needs, and the expansion of the state spaceport system for future growth,” DeSantis said.

Following the ceremonial signing, representatives from Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin and OneWeb updated the governor on how they have been fairing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Most aerospace companies have continued to hire new employees and changed their workflow to continue projects.

Blue Origin Orbital Launch Site Director Scott Henderson said the space start up founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos has created 600 jobs during the pandemic and continued hiring.

Blue Origin is manufacturing its New Glenn rocket in Merritt Island and is building a modern launch pad for the rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company is also building rocket engines for fellow launch provider, United Launch Alliance.

Kelly DeFazio, program director for production of the Orion Spacecraft at Lockheed Martin, said their teams have been busy working on the spacecraft for the Artemis-1 mission.

“We are busy working on Artemis-1 and we haven’t missed a beat, so Artemis-1 is finished,” DeFazio said.

Lockheed Martin also made changes due to the pandemic including with its internship program.

“We’re doing everything we can to include, in the pandemic, our virtual internship program. So we’ve stayed with bringing on our interns and hiring,” DeFazio said.

Lockheed Martin is hoping to increase the engineering talent pool in the coming years which is already experiencing a shortage, according to DeFazio.

“We continue to hire and we’ve read studies and done studies that there’s already a shortage (and) there’s a massive shortage that is gonna hit in 2025,” she said.

Representatives from SpaceX, ULA and Boeing were also present at the meeting with the governor.