Organizations announce united efforts
Officials talked excitedly Wednesday about Vandenberg Air Force Base’s future — one that could lead to thousands of new jobs.
It depends on establishing a thriving spaceport.
“Vandenberg is space country,” an upbeat Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg, told the News-Press and other media Wednesday.
Col. Mastalir spoke during online news conferences that announced a memorandum of understanding among the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the 30th Space Wing, Cal Poly, REACH and Deloitte Consulting LLP. The memorandum covers the development of a master plan for the space program at Vandenberg, which has been a launch site for unmanned NASA and military missions.
The agreement includes identifying the required infrastructure, human capital development, governance and financing needed to support the U.S. Space Force mission.
The memorandum also emphasizes making California a global leader in the commercial space industry.
Wednesday’s news conferences included representatives of the participants in the master plan. Speakers also included Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-San Luis Obispo, and Josh Brost, vice president of business development at Relativity Space, which is manufacturing rockets through 3D-printing and setting up a new launch space at Vandenberg.
The parties are working toward making Vandenberg a thriving spaceport. That could lead to many new jobs at the base and in support industries.
“We believe in totality, that it would be on the order of thousands of jobs, both locally and statewide,” Andrew Hackleman, vice president of REACH, said, answering a question from the News-Press.
He said the spaceport could transform the regional economy.
Officials are expressing hope after the recent formation of the U.S. Space Force. Col. Mastalir explained the force’s headquarters are at the Pentagon, but noted Vandenberg is among the bases competing for the headquarters of the U.S. Space Command.
On Monday, Rep. Carbajal and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both D-California, wrote Barbara Barrett, the secretary of the Air Force, in support of making the Vandenberg the headquarters.
‘We want to make sure Vandenberg is selected for the U.S. Space Command headquarters,” Rep. Carbajal told reporters Wednesday.
Mr. Hackleman of REACH said a decision is expected sometime in 2021.
Col. Mastalir noted the criteria for the final selection includes factors such as the cost of living and quality of schools. “We will go through the grading criteria. There are a number of communities competing.”And Rep. Carbajal said he secured a $5 million increase for space launch
services capability for Vandenberg and other bases in the House’s version of the $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act.
He said conference work on reconciling the House and Senate versions of the act would start in September. He said he expects Congress will pass the final joint version this year, possibly after the Nov. 3 election.
Jeff Armstrong, the president of Cal Poly, noted that a thriving spaceport would mean higher paying jobs, a more diverse tax base and more reasons for further education for the workforce.
“Today Caly Poly is training students who will become the astronauts of the future and the next Elon Musks,” Dr. Armstrong said.
Mr. Musk is the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and the latter produced the first commercial spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
“We’ve all witnessed the splashdown of Dragon,” Col. Mastalir said, referring to Sunday’s milestone. It was the first splashdown with astronauts since 1975.
He added, “Space is critical to national security, and the National Defense Strategy provides a very clear direction to restore our competitive edge in the re-emerging power competition to maintain space superiority.”
Josh Nisbet, managing director of Deloitte Consulting LLP, called the united efforts for Vandenberg a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for the state of California to drive the space industry into the next century.”