Florida aerospace agency plans to play bigger financial role


Florida’s aerospace agency wants to expand its role in helping companies fund rocket and satellite projects to put money more directly into the hands of companies looking to move nascent technology to the launch pad.

Space Florida president and CEO Frank DiBello told the agency’s board last week that one of the goals over the next few years is to enable Space Florida to move from organization of financial incentives and opportunities to collaborate with a more complex range of relationships involving banks, pension funds and the insurance industry and to engage in equity and debt structures.

“We can go the current route, which is basically what we do, but limit our focus on the market so that we stay away from some of the development companies, pure development and just go to the private sector debt,” DiBello said. “But it’s not a game-changing strategy. This does not attract the companies of tomorrow that we want to bring.

The council has yet to discuss the proposal, and any changes would require legislative support.

DiBello said the need for “medium-term” capital was reinforced by what he heard in July at the Farnborough International Airshow in England and increased launches from Florida.

“We saw for the first time [at Farnborough], companies that were telling us about two-, three-, and five-year projects,” DiBello said. “In the past, we might not see these opportunities until site selection consultants advertised them. We are now having preliminary discussions with companies interested in seizing the opportunity in Florida and telling us about the deal opportunities that exist to set up here, come here and thrive here.

While NASA hopes to get its Artemis lunar mega-rocket off the ground in late August, 30 of the 46 successful rocket launches this year from U.S. sites have been from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Kennedy Space Center.

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

“The spaceport infrastructure money that we have invested in spaceport assets across the state is what is contributing to this increase in launch cadence that we are seeing as we move towards 100 launches per year,” DiBello said.

“Part of the impact of this is clearly Space Florida is very busy,” DiBello continued. “And some of the growth metrics that I referred to is the fact that from pre-COVID to post-COVID, our transaction log has doubled.”

Over the past decade, Space Florida has facilitated nearly $2.7 billion in funding, mostly for research and development and manufacturing facilities, and DiBello said ongoing projects could bring that figure to $5.5 billion.

In 2020, legislation signed by Governor Ron DeSantis removed the requirement for Space Florida to brief House and Senate leaders before presenting bond proposals to the Governor and Cabinet. This change was seen as providing Space Florida with more flexibility in supporting aerospace projects.

Established in 2006, Space Florida promotes the development of the aerospace industry through elements such as corporate and infrastructure financing, spaceport operations, research and development, and workforce development. ‘work.

The agency is involved with Exploration Park just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center, three launch complexes, and the Kennedy Space Center Launch and Landing Facility that was previously used for shuttle operations spatial.

Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida.

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