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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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  • by Robotbeat ( 461248 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:17PM (#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. []

    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. []


    About the SEV: []
    About the Deep Space Hab using ISS heritage or possibly even just existing ISS spares: []

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:19PM (#42498325) Homepage

    Texas is far closer and far more useful. Hugs expanses of worthless zero population desert/land.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:26PM (#42498361) Homepage []

      Note how the first sentence ends in "world's first and largest operational space launch facility".

    Water is actually of very little help if you hit at more than 100 MPH. Ask the Challenger seven.

    Except for 20,000 ft having weather issues of its own, your dream spaceport would be the top of Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador, 2 deg S of the equator and your first four miles up is free. Or as wikipedia puts it, the top is the furthest point on Earth from the planet's centre. I concede the thick covering of glaciers remain a technical challenge. And the status of eco-tourism mecca, a slight political one.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @06:46PM (#42498845) Homepage

    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 successful missions) cargo system with currently the only significant mass return capability other than a crewed Soyuz.

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

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.