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Space Florida moves forward with spacecraft, mag-lev deals

Space Florida on Monday gave board approval to state financing  and a lease being used to spur three new technology expansions in Florida, including two companies that want to expand satellite component operations in Florida and one that wants to build a magnetic-levitation ground-transportation test track at Kennedy Space Center.

Meeting Monday in Orlando, the Space Florida Board of Directors approved a complex financing deal that would allow Matrix Composites of Rocklege to access nearly $3 million in loans, and approved another financing deal for $750,000 for York Space Systems to establish a satellite components manufacturing facility at a place to be determined in Florida.

Matrix manufactures composite materials which Space Florida officials said are critical to the supply chain of spacecraft and satellite companies either coming to or being wooed to the Cape Canaveral area. The company is projecting 105 new full-time jobs with an average annual salary of about $48,000, said Howard Haug, executive vice president and chief investment officer for Space Florida, the state’s official space industry development corporation.

The deal authorized by the board would allow Space Florida to arrange for $2.75 million in private financing for tools and equipment in a lease-buy arrangement for Matrix. Space Florida also would provide a direct $250,000 “credit enhancement” loan for Matrix to use to leverage more financing.

York Space Systems, which builds satellite components, would be getting a $750,000 loan in a complex deal that would allow Space Florida to chose between being paid back with cash or ownership in the company at some point. York is promising 24 jobs averaging $70,000 a year.

“Bringing another satellite manufacturer to Florida is a win,” said Board Chairman William Dymond.

The third deal is a lease, for terms yet to be determined, that would allow skyTran to set up a test track and research center  with a longterm lease for 15 acres at the former NASA space shuttle landing strip at Kennedy Space Center that Space Florida now controls.

While skyTran is the only one of the three committing to build and operate at the Florida Space Port at Cape Canaveral, its business shows the curious charge and opportunities Space Florida confronts. The company wants to build pioneering ground-based transportation systems, having nothing to do with space. But Space Florida President Frank DiBello pointed out to the board that its magnetic levitation technology had wide-ranging applications.

And Space Florida leases, controls and seeks to sublease 55-60 developable acres around the landing site, yet, for the time being, space companies that could use landing facilities, such as Virgin Galactic and Sierra Nevada Corp., aren’t fare enough along to commit.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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