California Space Race

A vocal and well-prepared team of aerospace professionals and backers in California is gaining momentum in its quest to enhance the region’s aerospace prowess. Influential members from myriad economic development, utility, education, government, military, and defense contractor groups have pooled their talent, assets, know-how, and hefty political backing to form the California Space Authority (CSA) . Notable projects underway include the formation of a new California Space Center (CSC), to be located on 71 acres in Santa Barbara County, within Vandenberg Air Force Base. The CSC will take shape as a curious blend of educational/interpretive center and R&D-fed mission control facilities, and will be within line of sight of Vandenberg’s existing launch systems.

I am closely watching local news coverage from Central California communities regarding the initiative, particularly with respect to land use planning and environmental regulations. It is a particularly beautiful part of the state, where agriculture, vineyards and aerospace have been co-existing for decades. All stakeholders are vocal and assertive; let’s hope it stays that way.

Also spearheaded by the CSA is the formation of the California Innovation Corridor. Funded in 2006 by the US Department of Labor, the California Innovation Corridor (CIC) is, simply, 13 California counties – from the Mexico border to the northernmost Bay Area – wherein reside the bulk of the state’s wealth of innovation assets. The CIC fulfills part of the Labor Department’s plan to nurture “job-generator” enterprises of innovation and entrepreneurship.

An example of how these Labor Department funds are already making a difference can be found at El Camino College, which offers an Aerospace Manufacturing Technician Certificate. That’s a real-life solution for how to train 21st-century workers.

Just as it takes a mighty engine to hoist a rocket space-ward, so too do the political and business engines behind such initiatives need to be high-powered. The CSA will need all of it, as it signals that, indeed, the state of California can and should retain its status as aeropsace giant.

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