Leaders promote East Kern for base of operations in space development

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A letter dated Feb. 28 to President Donald Trump, co-authored by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is prompting the administration to consider the high desert as a potential base of operations for the Space Development Agency.

“As stated in the National Security Strategy, space is a vital U.S. interest, and we appreciate that you have directed the Department of Defense to establish the Space Force to ensure that we remain the world’s preeminent space power,” states the letter, which also bears signatures of Reps. Paul Cook, Devin Nunes, Tom McClintock, Duncan Hunter and Doug LaMalfa.

The letter encourages the president to consider Edwards Air Force Base as the headquarters for the proposed Space Development Agency, and the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake as the lead for weapons conceptualization and development for the proposed Space Development Agency. Both sit under R-2508 — the largest contiguous restricted airspace in the country.

“Because of these bases’ proud legacy of breaking barriers and their consistent track record of delivering cutting-edge solutions to our nation’s toughest problems, these men and women embody the necessary culture of innovation and have the technical expertise required to rapidly prototype and field the next generation of space capabilities for our warfighters,” continues the letter.

“Both bases provide a central location, near the core of American space industry, to unite the acquirers, contractors, scientists, testers and operators necessary to produce revolutionary space capabilities for the United States and our allies.

“Equally as important, R-2508 provides a refuge to conduct sensitive and classified work, due in large part to the landmass of these bases contained within, and the volume of the secure ‘surface-to- space’ airspace it affords.

“There is no location better poised to serve as the bedrock of the new Space Development Agency.”

Vice President Mike Pence, lead on the newly reestablished National Space Council, toured Mojave Air and Space Port in fall 2017, when he and McCarthy got an inside glimpse of the private companies leading commercial space development out of the local installation.

Other significant players in the region include NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Rocket Lab and U.S. Air Force Plant 42.

“The Space Development Agency could leverage these already existing collaborative relationships to help fulfill its mission in direct support of the National Security Strategy to ‘integrate all space sectors to support innovation and American leadership in space,’” reads the letter.

Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason said that his office has also drafted a letter of support for the concept.

That letter was recently submitted to the Kern County Clerk of the Board.

Gleason said that he anticipates approval by the Board of Supervisors, with a subsequent draft sent to President Trump from Kern County officials.

“We have the infrastructure, the environment, the people and the experience — this is exactly what we do here,” said Gleason, who is also a former commanding officer of NAWS China Lake.

“We have access to space, and multiple agencies that work toward this mission on a weekly basis.

“Our letter articulates why East Kern is the best place, with all the key pieces, to support the Space Force initiative and the Space Development Agency.”

Scott O’Neil of the IWV Economic Development Corp. and David Janiec of the China Lake Alliance are also engaged in seeking support for the having a local base for the new agencies.

“We are excited that Congress-man McCarthy has taken the initiative and is out front in support roles for those defense elements in his district,” said O’Neil.

“This builds on a long history of space-related development, going back to 1958 when China Lake developed and demonstrated the world’s first air-launched orbital booster project, NOTSNIK, in response to the Soviet SPUTNIK satellite,” added Janiec.

Story First Published: 2019-03-08