Space master plan paves way for thriving space ecosystem

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With the inaugural phase of the Vandenberg Master Plan already driving action, leaders from the State of California, Santa Barbara County, Space Launch Delta 30, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, REACH and Deloitte have completed a new phase, laying out next steps in establishing a thriving commercial space industry on the Central Coast.

“This plan serves as a cornerstone in sustaining and expanding California’s position at the forefront of the aerospace and commercial space industries, pushing the boundaries of innovation and creating the jobs of the future,” Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) Director Dee Dee Myers said. “It’s an essential piece in maximizing the incredible assets the state has at what’s now Vandenberg Space Force Base, driving not just private investment but state and federal investment, too.”

Over 50 pages, the plan lays out three main goals — attracting space industry companies to the Central Coast, modernizing and investing in infrastructure, and strengthening the region’s space identity — and requirements for attaining them, including:

  • Creation of a “mission zone” to support increased commercial activity
  • Targeted infrastructure investment to improve regional transportation to and from other major hubs
  • Incentives to spur commercial space activity
  • Development of a skilled workforce by building a talent pipeline

It also calls for creating a “concierge entity” to spearhead and streamline attraction efforts, establishing a “space roundtable” and strengthening connections with venture capital and private equity groups.

“Vandenberg offers companies pursuing polar launch capabilities a number of unique opportunities that can only be found here,” said Josh Nisbet, managing director for Deloitte Consulting LLP. “And a vibrant space ecosystem gives the Central Coast a strong foundation on which to create sustainable economic opportunities for workers and their families in this region and throughout the state of California.”

The state recently awarded a $30 million California Competes tax credit — its third-largest ever — to Relativity Space, which has committed to create more than 900 jobs as part of a $320 million expansion, with a meaningful investment in jobs and infrastructure in the Central Coast.

“Relativity’s expansion, including the $10 million-plus launchpad it’s building at Vandenberg, is precisely what we expect to see more of as this plan becomes a reality,” REACH COO Andrew Hackleman said. “It’s essentially a blueprint, detailing how government, the military, academia and industry will work together to build the infrastructure, workforce and community ecosystem to support the expansion of commercial space activity and become a leader in this future-oriented industry.”

Bipartisan support at regional, state and federal level

The County of Santa Barbara partnered to fund the new report after voting unanimously to join the Master Plan collaborators in January under the Memorandum of Understanding forged last August.

“The value of Vandenberg to this region is paramount. That’s why the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to join this partnership and usher in a new era of collaboration and synergy with our longtime neighbors at the base,” said Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Chair Bob Nelson.

The County also partnered with REACH to fund the recent study finding that Vandenberg’s $4.5 billion economic impact in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties could grow to $6.5 billion over the next decade.

“The recent economic impact report shows just how big Vandenberg’s influence on Santa Barbara County’s economy is — and how much bigger it could grow,” said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann, whose 3rd District encompasses the base, Vandenberg Village and parts of Lompoc. “The County is committed to doing our part to develop the community ecosystem needed to support not just the base but also its growing number of commercial partners and operators.”

The Master Plan collaborators join state and federal leaders in envisioning a robust cluster of space-related activities taking root in the region, with sustained presence of companies across the ecosystem, from manufacturing and launch to maintenance and support, and enabling human spaceflight for the first time in California.

“I am proud to advocate for Vandenberg Space Force Base and the Central Coast with my colleagues in state and federal government, and this Master Plan provides invaluable input on the priorities and investments with the biggest payoffs for the region, the state, and the country as a whole,” U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal said. “There is so much opportunity here, from protecting national security interests to creating jobs and economic mobility, and this provides a clear path to achieve those outcomes.”

“Vandenberg is the future of space,” Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham said. “The vision outlined in this plan would bring even more head-of-household jobs to the region and establish the Central Coast as the home of U.S. aerospace innovation.”

The region already boasts many of the elements needed to succeed, including top-ranked aerospace, engineering and science programs and military and industry partnerships at Cal Poly.

“Recognizing the key role of workforce development, Cal Poly is proud to offer up the polytechnic, Learn by Doing approach that can help spark this industry, going beyond aerospace engineering to include computer science, systems engineering and more,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said. “We’re excited at the prospect of new, good-paying STEM jobs to keep more of our top talent in the region, and we look forward to working with other institutions in the region on this important initiative.”

Commercial space activities at the base, growing since the early 2000s, are on an upward trajectory with record private investment and a new National Space Strategy highlighting partnership with the private sector as essential to national security, economic prosperity and scientific knowledge.

“Our recent name change to Vandenberg Space Force Base underscores the critical role we serve in the nation’s space strategy and our commitment to remain at the leading edge of space launch modernization and innovation,” said Col. Anthony Mastalir, commander of Space Launch Delta 30, formerly the 30th Space Wing. “We are resolute in our mission to ensure the Western Range stands ready to support national launch and test priorities and strengthen commercial partnerships to preserve United States space superiority.”

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