Space Florida Pleads With Trump to Continuing Funding Major NASA Programs

Space Florida President Frank DiBello
Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Statement from Space Florida President Frank DiBello Regarding President-Elect Donald Trump

“On behalf of Space Florida, I welcome President-Elect Trump’s incoming administration and look forward to continuing our positive relationship with NASA. I have been encouraged by what I have heard of President-Elect Donald Trump’s plans for our national space program. As the incoming administration develops policies and priorities for the upcoming term, Space Florida  encourages President-Elect Trump’s incoming administration to sustain the balance of programs of record, including NASA’s Commercial Cargo and Crew programs, Space Launch System (SLS), Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), and affiliated Ground Systems Development and Operations.

Collectively, these programs sustain the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida, this nation’s premier gateway to a great future in space.”

Space Florida’s Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

As the incoming Trump Administration develops its policies and priorities for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Space Florida urges continued support for the balance of programs of record that bolster Florida’s workforce and facilitate the state’s economy, while ensuring U.S. leadership in space. These programs include NASA’s Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs, as well as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), and the Ground Systems Development and Operations.

The Commercial Crew and Cargo programs have enjoyed bipartisan, bicameral support, and are demonstrative of the capabilities in the private sector to support major national space initiatives. The Commercial Cargo program enables multiple commercial companies to operate cargo transportation to the International Space Station (ISS), and the Commercial Crew program will launch American astronauts from American soil for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. Robust and competitive access to the ISS for cargo and the new crew vehicles provides a new model for ISS access while strengthening the nation’s industrial base and helping to enable new commercial space services markets. Commercial Cargo programs have enabled $1B of spending over the past 7+ years, and Commercial Crew development has resulted in excess of $1.5B in direct private sector investment leading up to the maiden flight of the Commercial Crew program, currently scheduled for late next year (2017).

For deep space exploration, SLS and Orion are the nation’s next-generation human transportation systems to explore farther into the Solar System than ever before. These NASA programs have also enjoyed bipartisan and bicameral support and have made significant progress toward a renewed U.S. capability to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time in more than 40 years, opening the door to lunar missions and then to Mars.  The Cape Canaveral Spaceport will so be the only spaceport in the world launching humans to deep space.

It was only five years ago when the Space Coast region was buckled under the loss of almost 9,000 high-wage jobs with the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program, but Florida is rightfully proud of its leadership role in the dramatic recovery of our space industry. Florida hosts many of the businesses that support the ongoing exploration mission of NASA at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). These exploration programs support over 150 supplier companies in Florida, supporting thousands of manufacturing, engineering and civil service jobs around the state and at KSC. Nationally, Commercial Cargo and Crew, SLS, Orion and GSDO support hundreds of other supplier companies across 47 states, which have created nearly 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs each year. These programs are the heart of the U.S. space industrial base.

The SLS, Orion and GSDO programs alone, are expected to bring more than $2.8 billion in direct spending to Florida over the next five years–funding that is essential to developing the major infrastructure and launch capabilities needed by KSC and all Cape Canaveral Spaceport users. Much like the Space Shuttle program carried the key infrastructure and workforce costs for KSC, these exploration programs now form the core of KSC future operations. Without these NASA programs, these costs could be shifted on to other users, including commercial users who benefit from the federal investments and operation of key launch and range resources.

The U.S. Government should actively encourage the continued use of competitive and innovative partnerships to enable private industry to grow and create capabilities that will enhance and support government endeavors in a safe and affordable manner. Further, the U.S. Government should increasingly look to the states to enable public-private partnerships with the private sector, as state spaceport authorities have the tools and mechanisms to access private capital markets for investment in required new infrastructure for companies in the growing space marketplace that is increasingly and inevitably more commercial.

The continued health and success of Florida’s spaceport will play a vital role in returning astronauts to deep space, thereby ensuring America’s leadership in space in the 21st Century.

Space Florida continues to support all of NASA’s programs of record, from cargo and crew transportation to the International Space Station to the SLS, Orion and GSDO exploration programs, and encourages the incoming administration to do the same.

Frank A. DiBello
President & CEO
Space Florida

Editor’s Note: I understand why this letter is narrowly focused on the programs that bring in the most money to Florida. And I know that DiBello works under Gov. Rick Scott, who has never met an environmental issue he doesn’t hate.

But, the biggest long-term threat to Florida’s leading role in space exploration is climate change. And Donald Trump’s policy that global warming is a hoax and his threat to cut NASA’s Earth Science budget and climate change research are the worst thing to come out of this election for the Sunshine State. Seaside launch complexes and rising sea levels do not mix.