Plan calls for expanding the space industry
Public and private agencies have completed a plan to grow a commercial space industry out of Vandenberg Space Force Base.
The plan would create an estimated 14,171 jobs in the Central Coast and a projected output of $4.5 billion.
The plan was formed by REACH (an organization that seeks to bring more jobs and a richer economy to the Central Coast), Santa Barbara County, the state of California, Space Launch Delta 30, Cal Poly and Deloitte.
The project arrives as Vandenberg increases its commercial missions. The first commercial launch departed the base in 2020.
The 57-page plan has three main goals: Attract the space industry to the Central Coast, modernize and invest in infrastructure, and strengthen the Central Coast space identity.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors funded the report. The supervisors unanimously voted to join the memorandum of understanding in January.
“We are dedicated to creating a spaceport of the future that will improve the economic quality of life in our region. We can be a technological leader in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” Joan Hartmann, 3rd District supervisor, said in a webinar titled “Future of Space on the Central Coast.”
Industry leaders spoke during the webinar Thursday. They included Caryn Schenewerk, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Relativity.
The state of California awarded a $30 million California Completes tax credit to Relativity, which is planning a $320 million expansion.
Relativity has already invested at least $10 million in a new launchpad at Vandenberg.
Industry leaders discussed the benefits of the Central Coast as a launch site, from the beautiful community to strong collegiate partners. The one downside is the salty air.
“We discovered, which is no surprise, that we have a lot of opportunities to shore up areas where we’re not as competitive as other spaceports,” REACH’s CEO Andrew Hackleman said during the webinar.
“The good news is that the state and the Central Coast, and, of course, Vandenberg Space Force base, are of one of only a small number of places in the United States where rockets can be launched ideally positioned to compete extremely effectively,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, promised to advocate for Vandenberg Space Force Base in upcoming budgets as well as in basing decisions.
He is inquiring why the base was not selected as the center of the Space Command, questioning whether that decision was politically motivated.
Rep. Carbajal said he has begun conversations with the Space Force, advocating for Vandenberg to become the location of the Space Training and Readiness Command field command, or STARCOM.
“I appreciate everybody who continues to invest your time and making sure that we bring investment to the Central Coast. I certainly am committed to doing that and making the Central Coast in California, a leader in the future space industry,” Rep. Carbajal said.
The current parties who signed onto the memorandum of understanding (first published in August of 2020) are seeking more partnerships as the project grows.
“It’s an exciting time, and we’re a place where others have failed in the past,” Board of Supervisors Chair Bob Nelson said. “I believe that we are have a crossroads where we’re going to be able to take the public-private partnerships out there, along with the technology improvements that we’re seeing, from reasonable launch systems to 3D-printed rockets to turn that the Lompoc Valley back into the gateway of innovation.”
Although the team presented the plan eagerly, it is a first draft of what is anticipated to be a multi-step process with goals set for 2030.
To learn more, go to reachcentralcoast.org/space-master-plan-moves-forward.