Why SpaceX plans to double down in Port Canaveral — and why it’s a win for Brevard businesses

Local parts suppliers may see more opportunities in helping SpaceX refurbish its Falcon 9 rockets if the company’s expansion plans are any indication that it’s ramping up activity.

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket firm plans to lease nearly 2.2 acres of vacant land in Port Canaveral that is right next to a 53,360-square-foot facility SpaceX is also leasing to refurbish its rockets. The company wants to sign a five-year lease, starting July 1, 2017, to March 31, 2022, to construct a 67,222-square-foot hangar, according to Port Canaveral documents.

Canaveral Port Authority’s District Board of Commissioners will consider the lease agreement — valued at $236,797 a year — on June 28 during its board meeting.

London-based global engineering firm Atkins is identified as being part of the project, according to documents.

It was confirmed last year that SpaceX was interested in an additional space in Port Canaveral, as first reported by Orlando Business Journal. At that time, Canaveral Port Authority CEO John Murray told OBJ it would be a 40,000-square-foot facility.

Dale Ketcham, head of chief strategic alliances for aerospace economic development agency Space Florida, was not surprised that SpaceX wants more land in Port Canaveral. “It was expected that they would request additional space adjacent to the existing facility they leased earlier this year,” he said. “To most effectively accomplish the refurbishments anticipated, they need a slightly larger facility. It was not a surprise, but an encouraging development nonetheless.”

Right now, SpaceX launches twice a month from Cape Canaveral, but that schedule may increase over time as SpaceX plans to lower costs drastically for launches due to reusing spacecraft. And by scheduling more launches and refurbishing more rockets at one time, it could bring a boost for local part suppliers.

“They have been public about a projected launch cadence approaching 50 annually in the next few years,” Ketcham said. “Some of that 50 will be from Vandenberg, Calif., and some eventually from Brownsville, Texas, but Florida will continue to be where the vast majority of their launch and landing activity will occur.”

But boosting business for parts suppliers is just the start of how it could bolster economic activity in the area. SpaceX launches tend to bring in more tourists, which may lead to more customers for restaurants and bars. However, Ketcham said it could bring in more budding rocket companies and manufacturing firms, too.

“SpaceX continues to be the industry leader in launch, recovery and refurbishment, but they will not be alone in the future,” he said. “Collectively, multiple launch service providers will build a stronger and more robust industrial capability here at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, which, in turn, can attract even more opportunity as the global commercial space marketplace begins to mature.”

Jun 23, 2017, 3:02pm EDT