After completing the period for the delivery of the Request for Information (RFI) that began in March, the Ports Authority received the information package from 11 firms interested in being a master developer of services for the establishment of an aerospace port or “Spaceport” at the José Aponte de la Torre Regional Airport (JAT) in Ceiba.
The executive director of the Ports Authority, Joel Pizá Batiz, detailed that of the 27 aerospace firms that were invited to submit their information, 11 responded before the May 26 deadline.
These companies are: Spaceinnova, Astra, Jacobs, VAS Corporation, Kimley-Horn, McFarland Johnson, Ceiba World Spaceport Development Group, Javier E. Bidot & Associates, Watkins Cerny Architects & Planners Inc., Maritime Launch, and BRPH Mission Solutions.
"We are very pleased with the response to our Request for Information. Now Puertos will evaluate them, and the next steps will be decided in conversations with the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) and the Roosevelt Roads Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA)," Pizá explained.
The official commented that the RFI process responds to a Desirability Study commissioned in 2019 to the firm RS&H (www.rsandh.com), which concluded that the Ceiba airport and its surrounding facilities could represent geographically strategic space for activities of aerospace equipment manufacturing and storage.
This, in the future, could include launch activities, subject to the approval of a Launch Site Operator License (LSOL).
DDEC Secretary Manuel Cidre said that "the fact that 11 aerospace firms have submitted their documentation shows that there is interest and that Puerto Rico has the potential to become a key player in the development of this industry."
"We, have all the elements to be successful in this field: the appropriate geographic location, the weather, a strong incentive program, and to top it off, we have a skilled engineering workforce. We are sure that this new industry will result in the economic development of our island," he added.
Since the 2004 XPrize competition to launch humans on suborbital missions without using NASA space agency vehicles, aerospace launch activity in the U.S. mainland has seen remarkable growth.
There are currently 12 aerospace ports certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and another 12 firms have begun the certification process or have announced plans to do so. In addition, there are already four launch sites developed by private commercial operators.
A study by Bryce Space and Technology firm estimated the global aerospace economy at $360 billion in 2018, $805 billion in 10 years, and $1 trillion in 20 years.
Pizá added that launch activity can range from balloons and nano-satellites to space transport ships, subject to approval by the FAA certification process.