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Artemis moon launch could boost Florida’s space efforts

The mobile launcher with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building’s High Bay 3 to Launch Complex 39B on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Ben Smegelsky
/
NASA
The mobile launcher with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building’s High Bay 3 to Launch Complex 39B on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

With the next step in America’s return to the moon set for Monday, Florida’s aerospace agency views the launch of the unmanned Artemis 1 mission as reinforcing the importance of space-related business around Cape Canaveral.

Dale Ketcham, Space Florida vice president of government and external affairs, said just seeing the mega-rocket on the pad “is both nostalgic and encouraging.”

Ketcham said the pending launch is an indication that Space Florida’s efforts are moving faster than anticipated when the orbiter Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, marking the end of the manned space-shuttle program.

“If you had asked us when the last shuttle flew, I don’t believe we would have ever thought we would be as successful as fast,” Ketcham told The News Service of Florida on Thursday. “And we are far from done.”

Eyes will be on Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center on Monday as the Artemis mission has a first-day launch window of 8:30 a.m. to 10:33 a.m.

The Florida Today newspaper received estimates from local tourism and space-related officials of 100,000 to 500,000 spectators squeezing into viewing areas around Kennedy Space Center.

Backup launch days for the 42-day mission are Sept. 2 and Sept. 5.

The Orion capsule is planned to journey 40,000 miles beyond the moon before returning to Earth, setting up future missions that are expected to land people — including the first woman and first person of color — on the lunar surface by 2025 and eventually Mars.

While Space Florida isn’t directly involved in NASA’s Artemis launch, Ketcham said a successful launch will reinforce existing activity throughout the Space Coast.

“This will further establish the cape as the busiest, most successful spaceport on the planet,” Ketcham said. “All of that makes it an even more compelling location for other commercial space enterprises to move to where the action is: Florida.”

Space Florida was created in 2006 as the space industry was shifting away from its near full reliance on the federal government — NASA and the Department of Defense — for flight hardware. The state agency works to promote the aerospace industry in Florida through such things as financing, spaceport operations, research and development and workforce development.

Over the past decade, the agency has helped with nearly $2.7 billion in financing. Most of the financing has gone into research and development and manufacturing facilities.

“Now, we are the nation’s hotbed of commercial and private-sector space launch and landing, and we manufacture two of the nation’s three human-rated space capsules, we build big rockets, we build satellites, and we host an ever-growing suite of suppliers and vendors to support all this activity,” Ketcham said.

Lately, Space Florida officials have said projects in the pipeline are expected to bump the total to $5.5 billion, amid a steady increase in rocket launches.

Ahead of Artemis, 34 of the 46 successful orbital launches this year from U.S. sites have been conducted at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center.

Florida saw 31 successful launches in 2021, 30 in 2020, 16 in 2019, 19 in 2018 and 19 in 2017.

In July, Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said a goal over the next few years is to allow the agency to go from arranging financial incentives and opportunities to having a more complex array of financial relationships that involve banks, pension funds and the insurance industry and to engage in equity and debt structures.

"We can go the current path, which is basically what we're doing, but constrains our market focus some so that we're staying away from some of the developmental, purely developmental companies and just turning to private sector debt,” DiBello told the agency board in July. “But that's not a game changing strategy. That doesn't attract the tomorrow companies that we want to bring in.”

A panel discussion on how NASA, commercial, and international partners collaborated on the long-awaited return to deep space will be held Sunday afternoon at Exploration Park, Space Florida’s 299-acre property just outside of the gates of Kennedy Space Center.

Among the panelists will be Charles Bolden, NASA administrator under President Barack Obama, Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator under President Donald Trump, and Bhavya Lal, the current associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy.

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