A space center may soon land in Santa Barbara County, bringing with it over $2 billion in possible economic benefits for the area.

For over three years, the California Space Authority has developed a plan to build a space center just outside the gates of Vandenberg Air Force Base, located near Santa Maria. Construction could start on the California Space Center – which will include a museum, an IMAX-like viewing screen and additional facilities – as early as November.

Deputy Director of the CSA Janice Dunn said the project’s primary goal is to provide a feasible way for the public to watch rocket launches.

“There are 10 or 12 rocket launches scheduled this year, and we want everyone to have the experience of seeing a rocket launch, either in real time or by watching it on a movie [screen],” Dunn said.

The proposed space center will be housed, pending a land lease grant, on a 66-acre abandoned trailer park situated immediately south of the Vandenberg AFB Main Gate.

Currently, CSA has raised $206,600 from public and private sources, including a $150,000 grant from the state. The money brings the organization close to its goal of $250,000 to fund the initial negotiations and documentation process for the center.

However, once construction begins, the total project is estimated to cost $174.9 million.

According to an economic study done at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, the educational center may provide an estimated $2.37 billion economic impact for the county through the year 2020. With the center’s opening, the county aims to reap financial benefits from newly created jobs as well as spending by tourists drawn to the attraction.

Dunn said another purpose of the space center is to encourage students to take up careers in space-related fields. She said a predominant reason people do not pursue these fields is because they have not witnessed the professionals’ daily routine.

“We want to show people what engineers, scientists and technicians do, because even the technicians have really cool jobs,” Dunn said. “I would think that the students might care because it could provide them with an immediate new job, and hopefully when they graduate they can work in a professional capacity.”