Space Florida Approves Funding Deals With Blue Origin, Moon Express & CASIS

Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)
Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

At its meeting on Thursday, the Space Florida Board of Directors approved  $26.4 million in funding for Blue Origin and smaller deals with Moon Express and CASIS.

The Blue Origin spending fulfills a key element of an agreement reached last year under which Jeff Bezos company will build and launch rockets from Florida. Board documents indicate the spending is broken up into three parts:

  • up to $8 million in 1-to-1 matching funds for improvements made at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Facility Launch Complex 36;
  • up to $8.4 million in 1-to-1 matching funds for Exploration Park Phase 2, where Blue Origin will conduct its manufacturing operations;
  • up to $10 million without Blue Origin matching funds for improvements to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Board members also approved the expenditure of $1.6 million for improvements to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Facility Launch Complexes 17 and 18. The tenant will provide 1-for-1 matching funds.

Space Florida identifies the deal only as Project Odyssey without naming the party involved.  Florida Today said the partner is Moon Express, which is developing commercial lunar vehicles.

Florida Today reports that Moon Express had previously operated at Launch Complex 36, which is being taken over by Blue Origin.

The board approved the expenditure of $1.1 million to support a joint venture between Craig Technologies and CASIS focused on applied manufacturing capabilities. The venture will support the development of experiments to be conducted aboard the International Space Station.

The funding is being redirected from an $1.3 investment Space Florida made in CASIS in 2011, according to board documents. That funding was restricted to supporting the non-profit organization’s start-up expenses. CASIS only used about $200,000 of the funding.

Board members also approved proposals by Space Florida staff to pursue two other deals known only as Project Sabel and Project ICE.

Project Sabel involves an unidentified company interested in establishing a “major aerospace presence” in Florida. The project would involve an initial capital investment of $80 million, including a $36 million manufacturing facility, and generate approximately 250 high-paying jobs.

Space Florida would finance, build and own the manufacturing facility and lease it to the company under a long-term agreement, according to board documents. The project would be eligible for $17.5 million in matching funds from the Florida Department of Transportation.

The remainder of the funding would be obtained from a third-party lender. Space Fl9rida would not be responsible for this debt.

Project ICE is a $3.5 million deal under which Space Florida would purchase manufacturing equipment built by an unnamed aerospace firm and then lease it back to the company.

Space Florida would spent up to $1 million on the deal and assist the company in obtaining $2.5 million in funding from a third-party lender.

The company is already operating in Florida and “has demonstrated expertise in several key space systems and advanced manufacturing technologies directly related to the equipment in consideration, which will leverage the environment of the International Space Station (ISS) to manufacture a specialized product with a viable terrestrial market,” according to board documents.

“The contemplated arrangement will accelerate the company’s time to market for a new product line, enabling the company’s continued growth in the State of Florida and the expansion of the commercial utilization of the ISS, which in turn generates additional activity in Florida due to the state’s growing role as the ‘logistics hub’ for cargo bound to, and returning from, the ISS,” the documents state.