Homestead Air Base could become a spaceport, but don’t expect rocket launches

Florida lawmakers are pushing forward legislation that could bring businesses from the space industry to Miami-Dade County.

Senate Bill 968 would turn property at the Homestead Air Reserve Base in Miami-Dade into “spaceport territory,” allowing space technology businesses and other space-related companies to conduct research, develop space infrastructure and more on site.

Homestead Mayor Steve Losner is hopeful that if the legislation passes it will benefit South Florida’s economy.

“Certainly it would create jobs and perhaps there would be some tie-in with our high schools, and even Florida International University or Miami Dade College. I think overall it could be a real big positive for the community,” said Losner.

What is a spaceport?

According to state law, a “spaceport” “is intended for public use or for the launching, takeoff, and landing of spacecraft and aircraft.”

And “spaceport territory” is the land designated by the state where spaceports and other space-related activity can exist.

Currently there are six existing spaceports throughout Florida, two of which are the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kennedy Space Center which are federally owned.

Will rockets be launching out of Homestead?

Sponsored by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, SB 968 would effectively designate property within the Homestead Reserve Air Base and Tyndall Air Force Base in Bay County as spaceport territory starting July 1. HB 577 has similar language.

Robert Long, the CEO and President of the state’s aerospace business development authority, called Space Florida, said that although the legislation aims to turn property in Homestead into a spaceport territory, rockets would not be launched from the area for the foreseeable future.

“Cape Canaveral has developed over 70 years, purposely built to do what it does in terms of launching. You need a lot of clear areas and infrastructure, so that’s tough to do in areas that are already somewhat developed like around Homestead,” said Long.

Losner echoed Long’s sentiments that there have been no conversations about launching rockets in Homestead if the legislation passes.

“It stands to reason that it would not ever be a launching site given Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park, the bay…. that would be just a real non-starter there,” said Losner.

What jobs could the legislation bring to South Florida?

Long said the legislation would bring businesses to South Florida, and Homestead would act as an area that can help support space activity in the state overall. He said that by expanding the state’s designated spaceport territory, Florida will be able to continue to grow its aerospace industry.

South Florida is an ideal place to make that happen, he said.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities where any number of aerospace companies can see the value of some of these areas,” said Long. “It could be anything from a satellite manufacturer or an aerospace company or an aviation company that’s making parts for something. It could be maintenance and overhaul as well.”

The state has in place tax incentives to draw in more businesses, as there is a state statute that provides a tax exemption for certain machinery and equipment purchased for new businesses in a spaceport territory.