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Groups announce partnership to grow commercial space at Vandenberg 

Local political and economic leaders want to see Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc become a national hub for the fledging commercial space industry.

click to enlarge TAKING OFF A coalition of public and private groups announced a new agreement on Aug. 5 to grow the commercial space industry out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SPACEX
  • Photo Courtesy Of Spacex
  • TAKING OFF A coalition of public and private groups announced a new agreement on Aug. 5 to grow the commercial space industry out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

On Aug. 5, a coalition of agencies and industry groups—including REACH Central Coast, the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, the U.S. Space Force, Cal Poly, and Deloitte Touche Consulting—announced a new partnership to develop the first-ever master plan for the commercial space sector at Vandenberg.

Melissa James, CEO of REACH, called the agreement a "landmark first step" in a Zoom press conference on Aug. 5 that convened aerospace companies and government heads, like U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), state Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-SLO), and Col. Anthony Mastalir, the 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg.

"The agreement brings these parties to the table in pursuit of a shared vision," James said at the briefing.

The groups signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that describes its objective as "facilitating regional economic growth through the addition of high-quality commercial space industry employment."

"Over the coming decades, commercial space operations have the potential to anchor the Central Coast's economic growth based on high-quality jobs and activate the growth of the commercial space industry and relevant suppliers across the state of California," their MOU reads.

The four-year partnership is set to tackle business development and incubation at the base; road, rail, and marine improvements; utilities expansion; housing investment; policy and regulatory support; and the "synchronized deployment of federal, state, local, and private resources."

It formalizes as Vandenberg Air Force Base becomes increasingly well-known for its SpaceX launches and for its status as a finalist in the U.S. Space Force's search for a new command center headquarters.

At the press conference, Carbajal said that the Pentagon is still mulling over the decision on its new command center. He called his and other stakeholders' efforts to back Vandenberg a "full press to make sure [it] is selected at the end of the day."

Mastalir said there are many signs that suggest the commercial space industry is poised to lift off. He noted that recent aerospace innovations seem to be "all designed to drive down the price point ... per pound into orbit" and added that the commercial space economy is included in the Department of Defense's 2020 Space Defense Strategy.

"That kind of strategic level guidance has not always been in place," he said during the briefing. "I can't predict the future, but there are a lot of indicators right now that suggest things are a little different this time around." Δ

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