Whether or not NASA launches two or three more shuttle missions, NASA's venerable hub of operations, the Kennedy Space Center will need a new mission. That's why NASA today said it was looking to morph the center's unique space rocket facilities into a new more commercial role after the shuttles stop flying.
While its facilities would likely rise far above others, NASA could find some competition in any commercial launch venture. You may recall that in November for example, Masten Space Systems and Space Florida inked an agreement to perform demonstration launches of the space company's suborbital reusable launch vehicle from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. And Spaceport America in New Mexico put out Requests For Proposals for the day-to-day operations as the facility as it revs up for space operations.
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According to NASA: " KSC seeks to strategically identify, develop, and align the Center's distinctive space transportation assets and capabilities with other government and commercial space markets. KSC seeks to expand partnerships, customer base, and regional economic opportunities consistent with the NASA mission. KSC wishes to promote and enable the widest and fullest utilization of KSC assets and facilities to advance the nation's goals for space exploration and development and maximize the nation's investment in the federal spaceport. These efforts are targeted to enhance space launch and processing infrastructure and capabilities available to both the commercial and government launch and space services industry. "
In the end it seems that if NASA cannot find a suitable mission itself, or within another government enterprise it could even sell the facilities through what it called "established real property disposition processes administered by the General Services Administration (GSA)."
Some of the myriad items that are available at KSC include:
- Launch Complex 39A - Built for the Apollo Program and modified for the Space Shuttle Program, it includes the launch pad, various fluids and gases systems for Liquid Hydrogen and Liquid Oxygen and the fixed and rotating service structures for the Space Shuttle.
- Launch Complex 39B - Also built for the Apollo Program and modified for the Space Shuttle Program, the 39B site includes the launch pad, various fluids and gases systems including dewars for Liquid Hydrogen and Liquid Oxygen and standalone lightning protection towers. Use of this facility will likely be on a shared basis with other users, NASA stated.
- Vehicle Assembly Building - This enormous facility contains four high bays, some of which may be made available to non-NASA users for launch vehicle processing and preparation. Use of this facility will likely be on a shared basis with other users, NASA stated.
- Launch Control Center (LCC) - This facility features four "firing" rooms, engineering support areas and administrative offices. The firing rooms, which are essentially control rooms, contain numerous enclosures, computing hardware, software ( operating systems, command/control applications, displays, operating systems, databases), networks, communications equipment, configuration management, information technology security, and other ancillary tools and engineering processes in support of existing and future spacecraft processing and launch.
- Merritt Island Launch Area - This complex of facilities was developed to house telemetry tracking equipment and antennas. It contains several buildings including control rooms, administrative and conference rooms and support buildings. The area also contains several large tracking antennas, NASA stated.
NASA said it would look mostly at "entities which operate or directly support space launch or space user missions for the U.S. Government at Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station; and companies that operate or directly support commercial space launch or commercial space user missions, whether or not the U.S. Government is a customer. NASA will consider other technical, operationally-compatible uses and users which are determined to directly or indirectly support its missions and purposes if underutilized capacity remains available. "
NASA said it will not consider any operations that "fail to show any relevance to NASA's mission or purpose and US Government interests," or violate land use policies, environmental conditions, or pose a negative impact on NASA's mission. NASA said it will not consider any proposed transfer of title to land, proposed residential uses, or proposed operation of commercial agricultural uses as well.
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