Several aerospace companies have already established themselves on the island, and some are interested in building a spaceport.
With the rise of companies like Virgin Galactic, Space X, and Blue Origins, which recently took its founder, Jeff Bezos, into space, it’s an interesting time for the aerospace industry.
Puerto Rico is not exempt from the effervescence of the industry, as recently the local Ports Authority (APPR by its Spanish initials) identified an opportunity to establish an aerospace port, or “spaceport,” at José Aponte de la Torre (JAT) Airport in Ceiba.
APPR Executive Director Joel A. Pizá Batiz said that, according to a desirability study commissioned in 2019, the regional airport in Ceiba could be a strategic space for aerospace equipment manufacturing and storage activities, which in the future could include launch activities, if properly licensed.
“Aerospace activity, exploratory trips, and events beyond our atmosphere arouse great interest in local and global citizens while generating income and significant investment in economic, human, and scientific capital,” Pizá Batiz said in a written statement.
The APPR already confirmed the interest of 11 aerospace firms in developing a spaceport in Ceiba.
Pizá Batiz said the request for information (RFI) began in March, and 27 aerospace firms were invited to submit their information.
Some of the 11 companies which responded are Astra, SPACEINNOVA, Kimley-Horn, McFarland Johnson, and Ceiba World Spaceport Development Group.
APPR is now evaluating the companies and will decide the next steps in coordination with the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish initials), and the Roosevelt Roads Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA).
“We have all the elements to be successful in this field—the appropriate geographic location, the climate, a solid incentive program, and we have a skilled workforce in the field of engineering. We’re confident that this new industry will result in economic development for our island,” Economic Development Secretary Manuel Cidre said.
On the island, there are already several important space firms in municipalities including Santa Isabel, Isabela, and Aguadilla.
For example, Honeywell Aerospace has facilities in Moca and Aguadilla for research, development, and testing of navigation systems for military and commercial aircraft. It does some of its most specialized work in an electromagnetic interference test laboratory it has on the island.
The Lockheed Martin company moved to Aguadilla in 2016. Its work is not fully known, as its main client is the US Department of Defense. Its functions include the development and testing of flight control systems for autonomous military aircraft. It also produces navigation systems and the development of artificial intelligence.
Other aerospace companies that operate on the island are Pratt & Whitney, Opi Manufacturing, Collins Aerospace, Lufthansa Tecnik, and Essig Research.
According to the DDEC, by the end of 2018, Puerto Rico’s aerospace industry was generating $500 million annually and some 7,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Increasing production on the island is also of the interest to the Taskforce on Puerto Rico, which was reactivated last week by President Joe Biden.