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Businesses Space Science

Want To Buy a Used Spaceport? 99

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Want to buy a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships or a parachute-packing plant? Have we got a deal for you. The Orlando Sentinel reports that with the cleanup and wind-down of the shuttle program, NASA is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the its space-shuttle facilities including Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, essentially huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and chunks of undeveloped property. 'The facilities out here can't be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable,' says Joyce Riquelme, NASA's director of KSC planning and development. 'So we're in a big push over the next few months to either have agreements for these facilities or not.' The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public. Frank DiBello, thinks the most attractive facilities are those that can support launches that don't use the existing pads at KSC and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 'Anything that still has cleaning capabilities or satellite-processing capabilities, the parachute facility, the tile facility, the OPF, all three of them, they have real value to the next generation of space activity,' says Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida, an Independent Special District of the State of Florida, created to foster the growth and development of a sustainable and world-leading space industry in Florida. 'If the infrastructure helps you reach market, then it has value. If it doesn't, then it's just a building, it's just a launchpad, and nobody wants it.'"
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Want To Buy a Used Spaceport?

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  • Nice trick NASA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buttfuckinpimpnugget (662332) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:37PM (#42497981) Homepage
    Dump it on a rube, let them clean it up. No way that's not a toxic mess.
    • Re:Nice trick NASA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by anorlunda (311253) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:05PM (#42498207) Homepage

      That's no joke. The superfund law (i.e. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980) makes current owners or leaseholders responsible for cleanups even though a prior tenant did the pollution.

      My company almost got nailed by this on a property owned by New York State but was used by the federal governement for rocket research in 1947. We even found a V2 rocket wreck hidden in the bushes. Spilled rocket fuel was the contaminant. In the end, EPA had mercy on us because we were truly innocent and too poor to pay anyhow, but they could have nailed us.

      Now the site has been taken over by a brand new billion dollar semiconductor foundry. I sure hope the owners of that have made their peace with EPA.

      Any potential tenant of NASA land could have the same problem. IANAL so I don't know if NASA can grant them immunity to EPA's demands.

      • We even found a V2 rocket wreck hidden in the bushes.


        Do you have pics?

      • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:34PM (#42498411)

        We even found a V2 rocket wreck hidden in the bushes.

        Live from Peenemünde:

        "Herr von Braun, our last lauch went a little bit off course . . . we think it landed somewhere west of London . . . and England, actually."

        "And Ireland, as well . . ."

        I know, the first rockets we launched were made by our German scientists, and the Russians' were made by their German scientists.

        • "The Russians put our camera made by *our* German scientists and your film made by *your* German scientists into their satellite made by *their* German scientists."

          • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Monday January 07, 2013 @12:16AM (#42501219) Journal
            That was actually something I find fascinating about the cold war, how much blatant theft was going on between the superpowers. You had Israel having one of their spies sleep with an Arab Christian pilot for nearly 3 years, just to get their hands on the MiG-21 (Steal The Sky has a good if watered down account), you had the Soviets actually buying a dud Sidewinder that had gotten lodged in the wing of a Chinese MiG 17 and using it to make copies so good of Sidewinder that you could mix and match parts from their Atoll and our Sidewinder and it would work perfectly, and when my grandfather was stationed in West Germany in the 50s and 60s he said if the Soviets ever wanted to take out our forward bases all they would have to do is send a single plane with a nuke as they had orders DO NOT FIRE if they detected a single Soviet plane as we had spread the word through our spy networks behind the curtain that there was a large bounty for each new MiG or Sukov and they didn't want to risk possibly shooting down somebody trying to collect the reward.
        • by cusco (717999)
          Actually Von Braun brought almost all of the important designers with him, the Soviets mostly got the techies and assembly people. They didn't trust them at all, so pretty much gave them the mushroom treatment until they had extracted the little useful knowledge that they had, and sent them back to Poland. That's why the Soviet boosters look so dramatically different from the US ones, they were almost entirely home-grown. Pre-war, the Soviet Union was third in the area of rocket research, after Germany a
      • It's the reason GE isn't selling their Fort Wayne plant. It used to be where they made a ton of stuff. But the ground there is so toxic no one would ever buy it and GE doesn't want to clean it up. So they're just sitting on it and paying the property taxes.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Yeah I'd personally be scared shitless to take over any property that was built before the 80s, no telling what kind of toxic crap you'll end up with. We had several older factories set abandoned for years until the city finally tore them down, everybody was "Why destroy nice factories like that? surely somebody would be willing to buy if the price was right" and I told them about Superfund but they didn't believe me...until the guys wearing hazmat were tearing the buildings down because of the asbestos and

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          People just don't realize how truly toxic many places were before the EPA started cracking down, in those old factories they found PHB and dioxin contamination and more asbestos than you would believe

          Yep, those pointy haired bosses ARE toxic! (I think you were referring to polychlorobiphenyls, or PCBs).

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      Dump it on a rube, let them clean it up. No way that's not a toxic mess.

      Rube hell, they spent billions on it all and they'll sell it for tens of millions. In the end they'll practically give it away to get rid of the monkey on their back and the buyer will apply for government funds to deal with the mess. That's how the game is played. Corporations get rich off the government and the government just gets deeper in debt.

  • by koan (80826)

    I wonder if you get stuck with a toxic clean up bill as well.

  • I'm really not sure if it would be a suitable deal without free shipping.
    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      I'm really not sure if it would be a suitable deal without free shipping.

      They could always list it on Ebay for a $1.99 with 25 billion for shipping.

  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:41PM (#42498019)

    Basically they want somebody like Space X to move in to the facilities. Of course most of the DoD contractors that could chop in for this are gonna underbid or wait for these to close up... There's more money in charging for "repair" to rotted facilities than to take over existing ones. Really only a year or two unoccupied will "kill" these as they include state of the art clean rooms and rocket assembly facilities. Once the doors open, those are ruined with years to clean them up again. Those DoD contractors will get to charge DOUBLE when NASA needs those again.

    Ha. Ha, NASA.. Your expensive contractors got their money. "National Treasures" don't come before the bottom line.

    • by Animats (122034) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:02PM (#42498187) Homepage

      Basically they want somebody like Space X to move in to the facilities.

      It's too big. Space-X doesn't need a facility that big. Unless you intend to launch something the size of the Shuttle or the Saturn-V, nobody does. Space-X's first Falcon Heavy will be launched from Vandenberg this year, so they don't need huge new facilities.

      • by Macrat (638047)

        It's too big. Space-X doesn't need a facility that big.

        But they could easily make use of it for their smaller launchers if the price is right. Much easier to have regular launch schedules if you are renting/owning a facility.

      • It's too big. Space-X doesn't need a facility that big. Unless you intend to launch something the size of the Shuttle or the Saturn-V, nobody does. Space-X's first Falcon Heavy will be launched from Vandenberg this year, so they don't need huge new facilities.

        You mean with falcon heavy running late this year, early next year, or the BFR (big fucking rocket) that is being quietly developed, are too small for that area? The BFR is meant to launch 150-200 tonnes into LEO. And this will likely occur before the first manned mission of the SLS.
        And you think that SpaceX is too small? Really?

      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        Whatever happened to that company that was gonna make a luxury zeppelin? Sounds like a perfect fit to me, and I bet there is a lot of rich people that would pay to fly in style like that, the proposal I saw basically was like an airborne cruise liner which would be even nicer than first class on an airplane.
  • by rbrander (73222) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:44PM (#42498041) Homepage

    ...like hurricanes and moistly corrosive air.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:45PM (#42498047)

    The name of the top bidder is a closely guarded secret but those familiar with the process describe him as a bold, British chap with a habit of touching the corner of his mouth with his little finger.

  • That's a good fishing spot.
  • SLS? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by multi io (640409) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:55PM (#42498129)
    Aren't they supposed to use those facilities for the SLS [wikipedia.org]?
    • They don't need all of them, and don't plan to use the entire VAB. As far as I know, the Vehicle Assembly Building was designed to prepare several Saturn V's at once, as NASA once had a vision of launching many Saturn V vehicles in a short amount of time. SLS is only scheduled to fly once per year.
    • by khallow (566160)
      Plus, who really thinks there will be an SLS? NASA has a remarkably bad track record for new launch vehicle development. The Shuttle was its last successful vehicle design. As I understand it, they are to some degree legally required to operate as if there will be an SLS at some point in the future, but that doesn't mean that there will be an SLS.
  • by Robotbeat (461248) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:17PM (#42498301) Journal

    The summary makes absolutely no mention at all of the next-gen rocket, SLS (capable of well over 100mT to orbit), which is being finished up. The boosters for it have been test-fired already (as have the main engines, which are left-over Shuttle main engines, and the upper stage for now is a big version of the Delta IV upper stage), and it is on-track for CDR. SLS will use LC-39A and the VAB. NASA and Florida are just looking for others who would also like to use the facilities, since they won't be in constant use. Boeing is already using one of the Shuttle processing buildings for their CST-100, which is part of NASA's "commercial crew" program and is already very far along, having tested its parachutes, heatshield, abort thrusters, airbags, etc.

    Now, I'm quite skeptical with the idea of going back to 100+mT rockets for exploration instead of multiple commercial 15-30mT rockets (which have other, current customers and so are cheaper and will be around as long as the US is a country and which may shortly be capable of reusable flight), and especially I'm skeptical of the zipcode-engineered SLS, but it IS the current plan and it has lots of Congressional support and I'll cheer it along and enjoy its launches. People deserve to know that it's actually being built and that the VAB and LC-39A are going to be used by it, not all this BS about "oh, 'Bama canceled NASA, so they're having a fire sale." NASA's budget is still about the same (which is only about half of a percent of the federal budget, by the way), and the International Space Station is doing just fine with NASA astronauts in it, being resupplied with cargo by American spacecraft (SpaceX's Dragon right now has made two successful supply runs up and safely back down, soon to be joined by Orbital Science's Cygnus), and soon Dragon will be also shuttling the astronauts up and down to Station. http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/01/yir-part4-iss-new-year-successful-2012/ [nasaspaceflight.com]

    Oh, another thing is that NASA is currently experimenting with a deep space habitat based on ISS modules and a Space Exploration Vehicle for going to asteroids or the moons of Mars. NASA retired Shuttle, and a dang good thing, too! Now we can really go explore beyond the confines of the Earth's gravitational influence.

    Also, NASA's Orion capsule is VERY far along, has done several tests already and will do its first orbital test in the late 2014 time frame. This means by the time President Palin (or whathaveyou) is inaugurated, NASA will have essentially 3 man-rated capsules (Dragon, Orion, and Boeing's CST-100) already flight tested and a big-ass rocket built and prepping for launch (in 2017). NASA is NOT fracking canceled.
    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2013/01/sls-cdr-engineers-work-baffling-issue/ [nasaspaceflight.com]


    About the SEV: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/technology/space_exploration_vehicle/index.html [nasa.gov]
    About the Deep Space Hab using ISS heritage or possibly even just existing ISS spares: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/03/dsh-module-concepts-outlined-beo-exploration/ [nasaspaceflight.com]

    • by lingon (559576) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:28PM (#42498377)

      The summary makes absolutely no mention at all of the next-gen rocket, SLS (capable of well over 100mT to orbit), which is being finished up.

      I didn't know they started using magnetic engines! ... and with a field strength of only 100 millitesla to orbit, that's perfectly alright, nice!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Megane (129182)

      which is being finished up

      I don't know what your definition of "finished up" is, but "first unmanned test launch in two years if Congress behaves" isn't mine. That assumes that the Senate doesn't change their minds about the distribution of pork, causing the Senate Launch System to be even further behind than it already is.

      Good thing we've got three private commercial crew launch systems underway (you forgot Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser), one of which is based on an already working (I won't call it "proven" without a few more succe

    • zipcode-engineered

      Excuse me, could you please clarify what this means? I'm not familiar with this phrase and googling it only gets me your writing.

      • by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @06:07PM (#42499027)

        It means manufacturing based on the geographic location desired by a politician instead of where it would make the most sense from an engineering standpoint. i.e. - You can't put all the high tech space jobs in the same place as each politician wants some of the money to create jobs in their own district.

    • by khallow (566160)

      which is being finished up

      Sure, it is. NASA has a terrible track record when it comes to "finishing" orbital launch vehicles. Last one they finished in the real sense of the word was the Space Shuttle and that was thirty years ago.

  • Used astronaut suits? Training centrifuges? That would make a killer amusement park ride. Miscellaneous special-purpose rocket building tools?

    They must have a warehouse full of junk that would find a happy new home in a geek's mother's basement.

  • This shit needs to be banned across the board for public contracts, auctions, and sales of all types. It prevents bidding wars and hides the selection process from public scrutiny.

  • NASA seems to be taking a page from Nokia's book [slashdot.org], selling off its property so it can lease it back from the new owner and raise money to buy time to reinvent itself as a smartphone maker. Turns out its much cheaper to put smartphones in orbit than people... Even the North Koreans are doing it.

    Someday you'll be taking the Cape Canaveral tour with your grandkids, and as you pass the Vehicle Assembly Building, the tour guide will announce, "you see we leased this back from the country we sold it to. That way
  • Emperor: Good. Good! Your turn from the Dork Side is almost complete. Let the bloated government flow through you, cannibalizing all resources not directly going into the hands of people who scare easily, and thus more likely to vote against me.

  • wouldn't this be a perfect place for a hacker space?

    anyone else?
  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:07PM (#42500385)

    The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public.

    And out of the view of upstarts like SpaceX. Who here will be surprised if these facilities end up in the hands of Boeing and/or Lockheed? And future launch contracts as well.

  • It's here, it's here! The year of the Linux Desktop! </sarcasm>
  • Turn the VAB into a casino and add the profits to NASA's budget.
  • Four decades of "stellar" leadership, and the swan song is the auctioning off of America's space program.

    But some few Americans - and the OPEC nations, and the last communist nation and burgeoning superpower on planet Earth - got rich...
  • I hear it will lose half its value as soon as you drive it off the lot!

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright