Photo:Preparing for flight: the crew module of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.
Aerospace Comes Into Its Own
The word renaissance is often used in the story of the Space Coast. High-paying tech jobs are on the rise in the evolving economy.
The evolution shows no signs of stopping. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos leased launch space for his human-spaceflight company, Blue Origin, and located its Orbital Launch Vehicle processing facility at Exploration Park.
Area leaders have been exemplary in committing to diversification and collaboration. That work — which continues — is paying off. The reach is expanding to private industry.
Well-positioned companies in terms of aerospace, aviation, defense and technology include well-known names such as Lockheed Martin, which in December secured a $58-million missile contract modification from the Navy; Boeing, which announced this summer it was shifting its space and launch division to Titusville; Embraer; RUAG; Northrop Grumman; Elon Musk’s SpaceX; and United Launch Alliance (ULA).
“It’s an exciting time in Brevard,” says Tony Taliancich, ULA director and general manager of launch operations. There are more jobs in Brevard and a growing need for a skilled workforce. ULA is readying a mobile launch platform for the first Vulcan Centaur rocket for the Air Force, with a 2021 launch planned. “We’re working on better partnerships and connections to the schools.”
Room for more
Newer area companies include Firefly Aerospace, OneWeb Satellites, L3Harris and Collins.
Firefly announced an investment of $52 million, citing operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, manufacturing its small rockets at an Exploration Park facility. Over 200 jobs are expected.
L3Harris is the sixth-largest defense company in the U.S., the product of a 2019 merger between L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation. The state’s biggest aerospace and defense company, it has a Melbourne location and 8,400 Florida employees.
“We share the state’s goal of growing its reputation as a center for technology innovation,” says William M. Brown, chairman and CEO, L3 Harris. “Florida’s strong educational system, available pool of highly skilled talent and pro-business climate help to attract and retain companies like L3Harris.”
Private industry is very much a part of facilitating the exploration of space, says Frank DiBello, president and CEO of aerospace economic-development group Space Florida.
“Our goal is to make Florida a regional freight system for an interstellar trade port to support companies coming and growing here,” he says.