Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cecil Not Specified in Space Report; but State Panel Does Urge Consideration of a Commercial Launch Site with a Long Runway

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cecil Not Specified in Space Report; but State Panel Does Urge Consideration of a Commercial Launch Site with a Long Runway

Article excerpt

Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING

TALLAHASSEE -- Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings issued 18 ideas on Wednesday to strengthen Florida's space industry, alongside a $55 million spending proposal to move forward.

Jennings presided over a temporary state space commission's final report that stopped short of recommending Jacksonville's Cecil Field as a commercial spaceport. The spending proposal followed the report and would represent a massive increase if approved by legislators -- Florida currently spends $3 million a year on space initiatives out of a $64 billion budget.

As expected, Wednesday's report said Florida should broaden its space industry beyond Cape Canaveral but didn't recommend a specific site. Federal restrictions on commercial launches at the Cape are inhibiting the state's effort to recruit commercial space business there, and a consultant last year said Cecil seemed the best alternative since its long runway was ideal for a commercial spaceport.

"We are not abandoning the Cape, but the Cape doesn't have to be the only place for a spaceport," Jennings said at a Tallahassee news conference.

Commercial spaceports are a hot new market eagerly being pursued by several states. Although Cape Canaveral currently holds Florida's only federal launch license, state officials want to broaden the industry because it represents about $4.5 billion to the state economy and provides 29,000 above-average-paying jobs.

Wednesday was the last meeting of the Governor's Commission on the Future of Space and Aeronautics in Florida, which was created by Gov. Jeb Bush last summer to explore how the state can improve and grow its space industry. The report does not mention Cecil Field but does recommend the state consider a spaceport site capable of horizontal launches, such as one equipped with a long runway. Such a location "would require fewer up-front costs and would serve a more immediate commercial market," the report states.

Commission member Jim Banke said it remains to be seen whether Jacksonville is too remote of a location for such business.

"It makes sense in terms of tourism to make things as Cape-centric as possible," Banke said. …

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