TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida offered up to $18.9 million to help attract a Texas-based company that was announced Friday as coming to Cape Canaveral.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the state is willing to back such projects, announced from Launch Pad 20 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport that Austin, Texas-based Firefly Aerospace’s multi-year, $52 million development project will include more than 200 jobs.
“The new project will include the capability to locally manufacture, test and launch rockets, delivering payloads that will harness the potential of space exploration,” DeSantis said. “So, now Florida will not only be launching spacecraft, but locally manufacturing them as well.”
The Firefly deal, which includes the state Department of Transportation providing road and utility infrastructure for the new facility, was approved in November under the code name Project Maricopa by Space Florida, the state’s aerospace arm.
“The concept is we only invest in improvements that stay here in Florida, regardless of the outcome,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida vice president of government and external relations.
As part of the deal, Firefly is expected to create 239 jobs on the Space Coast with an average salary of $70,000.
The company designs, manufactures and operates launch vehicles that provide “economical and convenient access to space for small payloads,” according to its website.
Firefly co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Tom Markusic, an engineer who has worked for NASA and at SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, said on Friday that government spending on space exploration helps private companies grow.
“Me and Firefly, we really represent the investment and continuing dividends that the state of Florida has made and will continue to pay off,” Markusic said.
Noting a Falcon 9 launch by SpaceX on Thursday night, he said his company has a goal of 24 launches a year.
“We’re going to continue to light up the sky here in Florida with more launches like that,” Markusic said.
No date has been set for the first launch in Florida. For now, the company’s launches will continue at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Firefly will set up a shop in Space Florida’s Exploration Park, near the gates of Kennedy Space Center, and use Space Launch Complex 20.
Firefly is owned by Noosphere Ventures, an arm of Noosphere Global.
At Exploration Park, Firefly will join Blue Origin, the Jeff Bezos company that is building a launch-vehicle production facility, and OneWeb, a communications company building a satellite manufacturing facility.
DeSantis said the state is “willing to put up money” for the facilities, which besides jobs should provide apprenticeships to high school and college students.
“I think that this will have long-term positive implications for us,” DeSantis said.
The announcement was the second for DeSantis involving Cape Canaveral this week.
On Tuesday, DeSantis requested President Donald Trump set up a “space combatant command” in the state as part of a new military branch called Space Force.
“I think that this is good for our economy, it’s also just good for exploration,” DeSantis said Friday. ‘I think our space mission, we’ve got good mojo back.”