Shuttle Landing Facility / Image Credit NASA
NASA News Release
June 22, 2015
NASA Signs Agreement with Space Florida to Operate Historic Landing Facility
A new agreement marks another step in the transformation of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to a multi-user spaceport. NASA’s historic Shuttle Landing Facility, the site of one of the longest runways in the world, has a new operator.
“Our journey to Mars goes straight through Florida, and this agreement helps amplify the many ways that our critical Kennedy Space Center can support the next generation of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
A 30-year property agreement for the operations and management of the facility, located at Kennedy, has been signed by NASA and Space Florida, the aerospace and spaceport development authority for the state of Florida.
“Following the final space shuttle landing in 2011, the site has transformed into a multi-user facility supporting a variety of commercial and government partners,” said Bob Cabana, Kennedy director. “We look forward to partnering with Space Florida to expand upon the multi-use of this historical asset.”
Private companies frequently request time on the Shuttle Landing Facility. That demand is expected to increase as businesses that were commercial startups evolve into mature enterprises. The new arrangement with Space Florida is expected to maximize opportunities to use the runway creatively while maintaining its ability to serve NASA and the center, which has transformed to a multi-user spaceport.
“This marks the dawn of a new era for horizontal spaceflight in Florida and the country as a whole,” said Space Florida’s president and CEO Frank DiBello. “The most storied runway in the world will now become the cornerstone of Florida’s next generation commercial spaceport.”
Built in 1974 for space shuttles returning to Kennedy, the facility opened for flights in 1976. The concrete runway is 15,000 feet long and 300 feet wide and is capable of supporting all types and sizes of aircraft and horizontal launch and landing vehicles.
Note: A couple of points stand out. Although this has been in the works for several years, the lease of the Shuttle Landing Facility to Space Florida is as the release points out, another example of just how far NASA and KSC under Director Bob Cabana has come in its effort to transform the world’s most famous spaceport into a facility which can adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. By governmental standards it has been a swift an innovative process which deserves a great deal of credit, much of which goes to Cabana.
At the same time, it also highlights the dichotomy between becoming a true 21st century spaceport and the Apollo era redux contained in NASA’s Congressionally mandated Space Launch System.
Ultimately, at whatever point fiscal reality catches up with the Space Launch System and its infrastructure, the final transition to a modern facility with 21st century launch vehicles may not be as painful as many will decry. Unlike the end of the Shuttle era just 4 years ago, KSC will have moved on, becoming a much busier and very different place.
Finally, and in a related observation, the announcement also provides another example of NASA’s reflexive application of the “Journey to Mars ” tag to almost everything it does no matter how tenuous the connection.