FSDC Urges Florida Legislators to Focus on Key Space Priorities

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center
Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

FSDC PR — The Florida Space Development Council has urged elected officials to provide more support to the space industry during the ongoing Florida Legislative Session. FSDC President Gabriel Rothblatt asked Senate and House leaders to take steps to diversify the state’s involvement in space research and technology development; continue financing programs for space industry growth; fund conversion of the Shuttle Landing Facility for new programs; establish a high school space education academy; and fund a demonstration program for space tourism and point-to-point spaceflight.

The five issues were prioritized by FSDC’s membership through an online survey. They were conveyed in letters to the Senate President, House Speaker, and appropriation subcommittee chairs.

A copy of the letter is below.

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Florida Legislative Space Priorities Come Into View as Session Nears

space_florida_logoFebruary 23, 2015 (FSDC PR) — Florida’s 2015 Legislative Session will begin on March 3 and end on May 1 in Tallahassee. The biggest task for elected officials will be to approve a $77 billion spending plan, including millions of dollars for space-related programs. Governor Rick Scott in January revealed his proposed budget, which includes $12.5 million for Space Florida programs.

The Florida Space Development Council (FSDC) has tracked the progress of annual space-focused funding and policy issues in Tallahassee. FSDC is gearing up for the 2015 Session with an updated chart of space-related issues, a chart that is sure to evolve several times over the next two months.

FSDC 2015 FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE SPACE ISSUES
ISSUE/BILLHOUSE STATUSSENATE STATUSCOMMENTS*
Space Florida Ops Budget ($10M)Included in Gov. Scott’s budget request, with $4M of recurring funding and $6M non-recurring.
Space Florida Financing/
Investment Fund

Provided in 2014 but not included in Gov. Scott’s 2015 request. May be a legislative priority.
Space Transportation
Infrastructure Funding
“TIP” program funded at $15M in 2014 within FDOT budget allocation. Status unclear for 2015.
Shuttle Landing Facility Transition ($2.5M)Proviso earmark of $2.5M in 2014, and intended for two years by sponsoring legislators. Status unclear for 2015.
Space Industry Tourism Funding ($1.5M)Included in Gov. Scott’s budget request. Continued funding for coordination with VISIT Florida to support tourism attractions and space tourism flight business.
Florida/Israel Joint Aerospace Development ($1M)Included in Gov. Scott’s budget request. Continued funding of joint aerospace projects with Space Florida and Israel.
Qualified Defense/Space
Contractor Tax Refund
Incentive program requires statutory change to renew application window for companies to qualify for refunds.
Quick Response Training
(QRT) Incentive

Supported in 2014 by Gov. Scott. Status unclear for 2015.
Embry-Riddle high school aerospace academiesSigned by Governor in 2014 as a recurring budget item to
support/expand network of high school aerospace academies.

* Note: Most budget items are subject to the Governor’s line-item veto authority.

FSDC Membership Elects New President, Officers

Jillianne Pierce
Jillianne Pierce

FSDC PR, June 4, 2014 — Jillianne Pierce of Orlando has been elected to serve as president of the Florida Space Development Council (FSDC), replacing Laura Seward who held the position since the National Space Society chapter was re-activated in January 2013. A short bio for Ms. Pierce is available here.

Also elected to the FSDC board are Edward Ellegood (vice president); William Allen (secretary); and Randy Pruitt (treasurer).

Jillianne is a lawyer, government relations professional, and self-described “space nerd.” She is Co-Editor of the Space Law Newsletter for the American Bar Association’s Section on Science & Technology Law Space Law Committee. Jillianne’s work experience is diverse and includes journalism, law, and public policy practice.

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FSDC Backs Domestic RD-180 Engine Production

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)
RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Florida Shouldn’t Miss Opportunity
With New Rocket Engine

by Florida Space Development Council

May 1, 2014 – In the late 1990s, as the Air Force settled on Delta-4 and Atlas-5 designs by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, one controversial element was the inclusion of Russian-provided RD-180 engines to power the Atlas-5. The RD-180 is by all accounts a remarkable rocket engine, a propulsion system without peer in the U.S. Concerns about the supply of these engines from Russia were addressed by a plan for Pratt & Whitney (which had partnered with Russia’s Energomash and bought engineering designs for the engine) to domestically produce the RD-180.

Their plan was to manufacture the engines at P&W’s facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. Unfortunately, due to cost concerns (and with Air Force concurrence), this plan was shelved in favor of keeping a two-year supply of the Russian-made engines on hand. According to many in Congress who support sanctions against Russia, that plan is no longer good enough. The latest Air Force budget draft for FY-2015 includes $220 million to develop a domestic alternative to the RD-180.

After a series of mergers and acquisitions, Pratt & Whitney’s rocket engine business (including manufacturing facilities in West Palm Beach) now belongs to Aerojet Rocketdyne. The West Palm plant still produces upper stage engines for both the Atlas-5 and Delta-4, and capacity still exists there for RD-180 manufacturing. With momentum building in Washington for a “domestic alternative” to the Russian engines, the Florida Space Development Council believes Florida lawmakers and economic development officials should be working now to position West Palm Beach as the location for building these engines.