Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With shuttle program over, NASA needs to unload a lot of property

A line of thunderstorms moves over the Kennedy Space Center in 2009. Facilities such as the huge Vehicle Assembly Building, shown here on the right, need to be off NASA’s plate, in many cases by the end of 2013 when federal maintenance money runs out.

Associated Press

A line of thunderstorms moves over the Kennedy Space Center in 2009. Facilities such as the huge Vehicle Assembly Building, shown here on the right, need to be off NASA’s plate, in many cases by the end of 2013 when federal maintenance money runs out.

ORLANDO — Does anyone need a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships? Or a parachute-packing plant? An array of aerospace tracking antennas? A launchpad?

Make us an offer, says NASA, which is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the facilities used by its space shuttle program.

The last shuttle flight ended in July 2011, when Atlantis made its final touchdown. That orbiter, like its sisters Discovery and Endeavour, is now a museum piece. As soon as some remaining cleanup and wind-down are finished at Kennedy Space Center, the shuttle program will be history.

That has prompted NASA to advertise a long list of KSC facilities and equipment as available for use, lease or, in some cases, outright purchase by the right business.

Among them: 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.

A lot of the stuff needs to be transferred by the end of 2013, when federal maintenance money will run out. When it does, machinery will start to rust and buildings will deteriorate in the harsh coastal-marsh environment of Cape Canaveral.

"We have a lot of things in discussion, realizing that these major facilities have been funded by the space-shuttle program," said Joyce Riquelme, NASA's director of KSC planning and development. "And the facilities out here can't be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable. 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. NASA has at various times published official notices seeking proposals and spelled out that the proposals should be space-related, though the agency will consider alternative uses under certain circumstances.

But information about who wants to do what may not come until agency officials actually select finalists for negotiations.

"The first deals should start coming together in the next six months. We look at what's available, the prospects for commercial space businesses moving into Kennedy facilities and the possible effects on the space center," Riquelme said.

Space Florida, the state's public-private space agency, has made proposals for some of the facilities. Its president, 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.

DiBello said that value will be set by the marketplace. And NASA's success will be driven by whether there is an economically viable future for commercial space, as he hopes there is.

"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," DiBello said.

But some facilities, such as the launchpads, might not attract interest, he said. Companies may prefer to build their own, tailored to their own rockets.

"The facilities are not the end game; the market is," DiBello said. "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."

Space Florida wants to play go-between, bringing commercial space companies to KSC, so it has put together proposals for some of the facilities, including the shuttle landing strip — the world's longest runway.

NASA already has partnered with Space Florida and Boeing, which is leasing one of the shuttle garages. Boeing, under a Space Florida contract, intends to assemble and refurbish its planned CST-100 capsules that might be used to take up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing also has a partnership with Bigelow Aerospace, which is seeking to build and launch its own space stations.

NASA also has opened a commercial-research park.

"I think if you look at what happened in the last three years, you can be excited about the opportunities for the future," said Lynda Weatherman, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast.

With shuttle program over, NASA needs to unload a lot of property 01/06/13 [Last modified: Sunday, January 6, 2013 9:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: The unknown price tags in the mayor's race

    Editorials

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been busy promoting all sorts initiatives in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election, doubling down on his progressive agenda without spending much money or generating much controversy. But make no mistake, the cost will come due after the election. Without a change in …

    The mayor is determined to get artist Janet Echelman to create a sculpture for the new Pier. But the cost would be much higher than what is allocated. Above is Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here in Boston.
  2. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  3. Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.
  4. Advocates for charter, public schools argue their cases at education forum

    K12

    TAMPA — Advocates of charter schools argued for diversity in education while supporters of traditional public schools charged that state funding is stacked against them during a forum Friday titled "Choices in Education."

    Schools such as Winthrop Charter School deserve greater public support, their operators say, because they offer a choice in education that is popular among parents. Public school advocates say charter and voucher schools represent a double standard in accountability and enrollment. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  5. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech

    Editorials

    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …