More than 350 people logged into a webinar June 3 to learn about the master plan for creating a thriving space industry on the Central Coast and to hear from space industry leaders about what’s needed to achieve that goal.
The webinar presented by REACH Central Coast, the Regional Economic Action Coalition, also featured speakers from Santa Barbara County, the state and Vandenberg Space Force Base, which is the focus of the space industry in California.
Andrew Hackleman, REACH vice president for strategy, said Vandenberg generates 14,000 jobs and has a $5.8 billion economic impact, according to a recent study.
The space industry provides 16,139 jobs on the Central Coast with a $6 billion annual output, while the industry generates 20,899 jobs statewide with a $7.1 billion output. Hackleman said such numbers show how vital Vandenberg is to the industry.
A panel discussion brought out reasons some emerging space businesses have located or plan to locate here and what’s needed to attract even more businesses to make the base a primary launch point for commercial space operations.
Moderated by Ryan Dunn, chief executive officer of Mantis Composites, the panel included Caryn Schenewerk, vice president for government and regulatory affairs for Relativity; Marcus Chevitarese, vice president of engineering for Umbra; and Shane Fleming, vice president of global commercial launch services for Rocket Lab.
Panelists said Vandenberg is attractive for commercial space launches for a number of reasons, including being located on the coast in a beautiful area where it’s easy to attract talented workers as well as the high level of talent that already exists in the area.
“None of our companies, I think, would exist in the way that we do but for the talent pool,” Shenewerk said. “It's one of the reasons why we've committed so significantly to growing in California is there is an immense amount of talent [with a] willingness to work hard and to really contribute to stretch goals and to achieving things like making, you know, life multiplanetary.”
But its needs include better infrastructure, and that doesn’t just mean roads and water and sewer service nor the actual launch facilities.
“You know, when we operate a launch we have anywhere between 30 to 50 staff on site, and that's just, you know, a core team,” Fleming said. “We have staff from our customer base that is present for launch.
“They all need to eat, they need to sleep, they need to get to and from the range every day.”
He said building up the launch infrastructure requires a lot of technical expertise from welders, crane operators and other construction industries.
Chevitarese said having partnerships with Vandenberg and contracts being run out of the base would also draw more commercial space companies.
He said having companies that are able to conduct many launches within a short time frame would also increase business.
“You know, ideally, in my case, there would be like a launch on demand,” he said. “Like when I'm ready to launch a satellite, there's a lot of providers — that I can, you know, call an Uber launch service.”
Fleming said having the full range of infrastructure available to all companies would be a big benefit.
“We all need propellant, we all need high-speed internet, we all need redundant power, we all need, you know, meals, accommodation, roads,” he said. “All of those things are very important, they're very costly and they're all shared resources. They also take a lot to maintain.”