September 24, 2012
Credit: Credit: SpaceX
With an eye toward developing a commercial spaceport, Florida has asked NASA to transfer 150 acres of land north of the shuttle launch pads and the shuttle runway to Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development agency.
“Florida believes that the properties identified in this request are excess to the needs of the U.S. government,” Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, who is also chairwoman of Space Florida, wrote in letter to NASA chief Charles Bolden and Ray LaHood, secretary of Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial space transportation in the United States.
The letter, dated Sept. 20, was posted on the state’s Sunburst public records website.
A week earlier, Space Florida agreed to spend $2.3 million for environmental studies, land surveys, title searches, appraisals and other activities to lay the groundwork for Cape Canaveral Spaceport, a proposed state-owned commercial complex that would be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and operated like an airport.
“If we want to be satisfied with 10 to 12 government launches a year, I don’t have to do anything,” Space Florida president and chief executive Frank DiBello told Reuters.
But he said those launches would likely end when commercial sites elsewhere are able to offer affordable rates.
“What has existed for decades has been good, but the marketplace has been largely governmental. What commercial market there was, we have essentially lost overseas. I’m not only anxious to bring some of that back, but I’m anxious for the next-generation of providers, both the launch companies and the satellite owner-operators, to have Florida be the place where they seek to do business,” DiBello said.
Similar commercial spaceports have been set up in New Mexico, where Virgin Galactic, an offshoot of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, plans to fly a fleet of suborbital passenger spaceships, as well as Alaska, Virginia and California.
Commercial space launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida and from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, both of which can accommodate bigger rockets and more diverse payloads than the other sites, are subject to military oversight.