Having taken steps for their bid, Elche now has considerable competition, as San Javier has taken giant leaps to become the space capital of Spain.

Already known as the ‘City of the Air’ because the San Javier air academy training facility, which is also home to the Patrulla Águila aerobatics group, San Javier has boosted its candidacy to host the Spanish Space Agency through a major marketing and social media campaign.

“We want to be the ‘City of Air and Space'”, as the mayor of San Javier, José Miguel Luengo, underscores excitedly, alluding to the slogan that champions his candidacy for the Spanish version of NASA to be located in the old terminal of the San Javier airport.

The Ministry of Science launched the call with the premise of decentralising the facilities outside of Madrid. This objective has obtained 35 applications as a response: 21 locations aspire to be the base of operations of the Spanish Space Agency and 14 opt for the Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence, which will be in charge of controlling the new generation algorithms.

“When we studied the requirements of the call, we saw that the San Javier airport terminal, due to its characteristics, allowed us to present a very strong project. This infrastructure adjoins the General Air Academy (AGA), which guarantees safety. In addition, the Air Force has been renamed the Air and Space Force and its officers are being trained at the AGA in San Javier.”

Another strong point is the fact that within the AGA, the Polytechnic University of Cartagena trains its officers in aerospace technology and this teaching institution has projects with the European Space Agency.

The Murcia community has mobilised to support San Javier. On social networks, the gesture with the right arm taking off into space multiplies, as a nod to the candidacy of this town located on the edge of the Mar Menor. This has been supported by famous faces from the region, such as the actor Ginés García Millán (Puerto Lumbreras), the cyclist Alejandro Valverde (Murcia), the director of the Paris Opera Ballet, José Carlos Martínez (Cartagena), the former national selector, José Antonio Camacho (Cieza), and the sculptor Lidó Rico (Yecla), as well as gaining support from industry and business leaders alike.

The mayor also points out that housing the Spanish Space Agency within the old San Javier airport would benefit the Air and Space Force because it is close to the General Air Academy and that would mean a qualitative leap in the training of the AGA cadets themselves.

Of course, there is a downside to the project, in that tentative plans to turn the former airport into a museum would be permanently shelved, but with this project being worth 500 million euro and which provides for the creation of more than 70 jobs, it would be worth it for the local area.

The mayor concluded, “I equate the possibility of hosting the Spanish Space Agency with the arrival of the General Air Academy in 1943 and that generates great enthusiasm among the residents. We have been the airport of the Region of Murcia for fifty years and that old terminal could generate something with a great future.”