Study Recommends Measures to Boost Virginia’s Space Industry Competitiveness

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

A new analysis shows that Virginia’s diverse space industry is highly competitive with those in other states, and it makes a half dozen recommendations on how the Commonwealth can improve its standing with additional government and private spending.

“The Commonwealth’s industry diversity is a major advantage in the future growth of the industry. These space assets currently align in a way that with a number of strategic financial investments, Virginia’s already robust space presence can be tailored to foster development over the coming decades,” reads the 32-page report written by the Performance Management Group @ Virginia Commonwealth University.

The report’s recommendations are divided into two categories: improving and maximizing the use of existing space resources within Virginia; and enhancing research, innovation and space policy through the creation of two new research centers.

The report’s specific recommendations include:

  • Develop Space Research Center. “This research center would serve several functions by using a three-pronged approach, containing an incubator program, a program which links university students with the industry, and facilitating business entrepreneurship by linking together venture capital and space businesses. The research center would also help attract new businesses that are looking for a ‘one-stop shop’ and help to further develop a pro-space business environment. This model has also been shown to have a high return on investment as evident by the eSpace Center for Space Entrepreneurship in Colorado.”
  • Create a Central Aerospace Policy Center of Excellence. “The creation of a centralized aerospace policy center that serves to unify the Commonwealth’s space landscape would greatly unite a somewhat disjointed aerospace industry. First, this entity should provide a unified lobbying effort that can act in the space industry’s best interest to produce a robust industry. Second, this policy hub should be a center of excellence for conducting space-related policy research and studies that benefit the industry. Third, the policy center will be overseen by a board of industry experts ranging from university representatives to for-profit firms.”
  • Provide Wallops Infrastructure Assistance for Improvements. “Wallops Flight Facility’s launch capabilities offer a significant competitive advantage to Virginia’s space industry. Wallops’ resources can be further enhanced through additional funding for several new positions and improvements to Wallops infrastructure. A future analysis should investigate the needs of space businesses interested in locating near Wallops and examine where gaps exist between the needs of these companies and the current Wallops Flight Facility.”
  • Maximize Education Pipeline. The report recommends “investing in university faculty that does applicable research and developing space education hubs and labs to generate student interest and participation.” This would help Virginia solve a key problem: although enrollments in space-related degree programs have been rising at state universities, there is only a small core of space-centric faculty members to teach and mentor the students.
  • Utilize Venture Capital in Northern Virginia. “The current clustering of space businesses for these reasons has produced a concentration of venture capital in this area that can be used to help develop new and existing space business. Utilizing the existing capital by funneling R&D activities into a research center would be beneficial for Virginia’s space industry because large space businesses in close proximity could also use this research center to recruit students and staff as potential workforce employees.”
  • Utilize Manufacturing Resources in Southern Virginia. This recommendation involves keeping  more space manufacturing in-state instead of using out-of-state contractors.

This is the second space report that Virginia officials received in November. The consulting firm of KPMG also produced a report that looked at the operations and structure of the state-operated Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. That report contained a series of recommendations on how to improve operations of the authority.

  • Hunter Snellings

    Mr. Messier,

    I am with Performance Management Group @ VCU, and acted as project manager on this report. We have an update, if you would kindly contact us upon receiving this.