NewSpace gaining more real estate at Kennedy
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency of the State of Florida, will be meeting in Tampa in the next week to provide some $18 million of state money to help Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and Blue Origin, LLC, to develop new facilities at Kennedy Space Center.
On the meeting agenda is an item titled “FDOT Project Palmer/SpaceX,” proposes $14.5 million toward SpaceX’s Launch and Landing Control Center tower, located in the as-yet un-budgeted SpaceX Operations Area, and a hangar for the new Falcon Heavy rocket.
As was noted on Florida Today, $3.4 million would go to the rocket manufacturing site Blue Origin is developing in Exploration Park, located near the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex..
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) would reimburse SpaceX and Blue Origin for those specified amounts. Overall, the department budgeted $31 million for improvements in Kennedy Space Center’s infrastructure, and more than $100 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Most of this will go not to the construction of the facilities themselves, but to support infrastructure such as roads and utilities that would benefit tenants or guests around the sites.
SpaceX has committed to investing $15 million of its own money, and Blue Origin $30 million, to those efforts, and much more to the overall projects.
Blue Origin has committed to $200 million toward its New Glenn rocket factory, which is now almost complete, and launch complexes 36 and 11 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the company will launch its orbital New Glenn rocket. The first launch is planned for 2020.
SpaceX’s expansion is expected to add 90 jobs, paying $75,000 a year. Blue Origin’s plans will add 330 jobs with a salary of $89,000. Space Florida’s work should create 50 jobs with a salary of $75,000. In all, this work will create at least 140 jobs at Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 and holds a contract, along with Boeing, in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The company has already launched several successful unmanned cargo ships to the International Space Station, and its Falcon 9 rocket is the first rocket in history to launch, deploy its payload into orbit, and then return to land vertically on either an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship or near its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force’s Landing Zone 1.
These recent announcements come at a time when SpaceX is seeing growing support by customers in need of launch services. The Hawthorne, California-based company recently was awarded some $130 million to launch the U.S. Air Force’s AFSPC-52 mission atop a Falcon Heavy rocket. If everything goes as planned, that mission should be launched in the middle-to-late 2020.
Due to the classified nature of the mission, it has not been announced what the payload is. However, the following statement was made via a release:
“The competitive award of this EELV launch service contract directly supports Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force program executive officer for Space and SMC commander.
The company plans to launch more than 20 missions this year. Eventually, it could launch as many as 60 rockets a year—more than twice the number of flights in the optimistic schedule originally envisioned for NASA’s Space Shuttle.
Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos. Originally the company focused on suborbital flights, but the New Glenn rocket is an orbital launch vehicle designed to ferry astronauts in its Space Vehicle.
Space Florida is also working with other companies to convert the Space Shuttle Landing Facility into a runway for commercial use, called the Space Florida Launch and Landing Facility.
Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.