Space Florida executive retiring after overseeing space biz’s liftoff
Space Florida President Frank DiBello outlines Florida's military institutions.

Frank Dibello and Space Florida
The space shuttle program was canceled not long after Frank DiBello started leading the special district.

The leader of Space Florida — and an inductee into the Space and Satellite Hall of Fame — is retiring after overseeing the state space industry’s rocketing growth.

Frank DiBello, who served as the special district’s CEO and President for the last 14 years, is credited with building the state’s space business to even greater heights despite the federal government’s 2011 cancellation of the space shuttle program that launched from the Kennedy Space Center.

He retires in June and will participate in a search for his replacement, according to a news release from Space Florida.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said the state will “miss him dearly.”

“Serving as the Chair of the Space Florida Board for the past four years, I have had the pleasure of working closely with Frank every day, and I can tell you there is no one more passionate about the space industry in our state,” Nuñez said in a prepared statement.

Under DiBello’s leadership, Space Florida oversaw the growth of the state’s space business into a thriving commercial enterprise, according to the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), which lays claim to being the space and satellite industry’s largest, most international and cross-disciplinary network of individuals and companies.

SSPI bestowed its plaudits on him as he was inducted into the society’s Hall of Fame, putting him in the same company as the developer of the earliest communications satellites.

“He was instrumental in the state’s … rise to even greater heights as the thriving commercial space operations and manufacturing cluster it is today,” SSPI’s bio for DiBello reads. “Frank’s leadership and contributions to the advancement of the aerospace industry in Florida have positioned the state as the clear leader in a rapidly transforming US aerospace market, which has set an example to many other states.”

Florida is home to the world’s busiest spaceport — with Cape Canaveral called the “gateway to space.” It’s not only used by the federal government’s Space Force but also companies like SpaceX, which launched the Falcon 9 with the Dragon spacecraft atop it earlier this week, bound for the International Space Station.

The business is growing exponentially. So far, 57 launches have occurred from Central Florida this year, compared to the 35 that happened throughout 2022, Dale Ketcham, a Space Florida official, told WFTV9.

The frequency of launches has become great enough that their timing with cruise ship sailings is becoming an issue, according to news reports.

DiBello said he’s certain there’s more to look forward to in this sector of commerce and development.

I am confident Space Florida will build upon the solid commercial space industry in the state and take it to new heights,” he said in a prepared statement. “Florida will be the principal global entry point to space and the leading enabler for the space economy in the years to come.”

Space Florida was created as a special district in 2006.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


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