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Boeing is moving its Space and Launch headquarters to Florida’s Space Coast

Space Launch System manufacturing. (Boeing/Released)

The Space Coast has been working for years to become a one-stop-shop for space-related operations — not just launches — and Boeing has taken notice.

The aerospace company announced Wednesday that it will move its Space and Launch headquarters from Arlington, Virginia, to Titusville by the end of the year, bringing with it Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the division, and the members of his executive leadership team and support staff.

The move will begin later this summer into an existing Boeing facility in Titusville, at 100 Boeing Way, said spokesman Dan Beck. Boeing would not give an exact number for how many employees were moving to Titusville but said it will consist of a “small” executive team. The division is spread out throughout the United States with space operations in California, Texas, Alabama, Colorado and Louisiana, and those workers will not be affected by the move.

“Boeing has been a dominant presence on the Space Coast for six decades, and this move represents a continuation of that legacy and future commitment,” Chilton said in a statement.

For the region, Boeing’s decision furthers the efforts by entities like the Space Coast’s Economic Development Commission to diversify the local space industry by attracting a headquarters move like Boeing’s. The Cape has recently added among its tenants Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket factory and satellite manufacturer OneWeb’s production facility.

“Boeing’s Space and Launch headquarters will be another turning point for our community,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the EDC in a statement, “as it represents a new set of activities for Boeing on the Space Coast.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted about the move Wednesday, saying the “announcement affirms our state’s position as a national leader in innovation and job growth and will bring increased investment to the Space Coast.”

Space Coast has been working for years to become a one-stop-shop for space-related operations — not just launches — and Boeing has taken notice.

The change in headquarters comes at a time when Boeing has numerous operations taking place on the Space Coast.

At the company’s Kennedy Space Center facilities, Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner astronaut capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a venture to restore full capability to the United States for astronaut launches from American soil to the International Space Station. The Starliner has two test flights planned for later this year — one with crew aboard and one without.

Meanwhile, Boeing also is anticipating increased payload processing and launch activity from the Cape. With the move, it’s looking to strengthen its relationship with the Air Force at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the 45th Space Wing.

Boeing also is closely involved in NASA’s largest initiative: The Artemis program that plans to return astronauts to the lunar surface as soon as 2024. The company is the prime contractor on the massive Space Launch System rocket, which is being built for the lunar mission.

Moving to Florida will base the Boeing Space and Launch division to the site of integration and launch for SLS, a program that has suffered from delays and budget overruns so significant that a government watchdog report released Wednesday found that costs have grown by $1.8 billion. A first launch may not happen until June 2021 — four years later than originally expected.

“If you look at the key programs that we support for NASA as well as Air Force space and our commercial customers, a lot of that work … the center of gravity for those, is moving more toward Florida,” Beck said. “So it puts our leaders close to the people that are leading those programs with our customers.”

The headquarters announcement also builds on Boeing’s current investment in Florida. The company employs 2,500 people across five sites in the state, including in Fort Walton Beach, Jacksonville, Titusville and two locations in Miami. Expenditures among its 520 suppliers and vendors in Florida came in at $894 million in 2018, Boeing said, with $69 million spent in Brevard County alone.

Boeing also recently created a $3 million endowment at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach focused on providing scholarships in the aviation industry to women, underrepresented minorities and military veterans and their dependents. Beck said the company plans to continue its support of education in the science, technology, engineering and math fields locally.

“I’m ecstatic that an industry leader like Boeing — and the jobs that are certain to follow — are relocating to Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-St. Augustine, who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, in a statment. “Boeing understands the value of innovation — and this move by the largest aerospace company in the world sends a strong signal that Central Florida is ground zero for the future of space resurgence.”

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© 2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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