LAS CRUCES, N.M. — With most of its surplus space shuttle-era infrastructure handed over to other organizations — including the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B military spaceplane program — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon solicit proposals from companies that want to develop new facilities there, including new launch sites.
“Now that our assets, for the most part, are spoken for or transitioned from shuttle, they can provide us a proposal for undeveloped land” on center property that companies would like to develop, said Scott Colloredo, director of KSC’s Center Planning and Development Directorate, in a presentation here at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight Oct. 16.
That land use, which he said could include additional launch sites or manufacturing facilities, would have to be consistent with KSC’s master plan published this year. That plan sets aside land at the center for additional horizontal and vertical launch and landing sites, as well as locations for assembly, testing and processing buildings.
“As long as it’s compatible with our master plan and our future planning, we’ll entertain it,” Colloredo said. A formal announcement of opportunity, he said, will likely be released in the next few months.
Those plans come as KSC has largely completed efforts to hand over excess infrastructure to other users. On Oct. 8, KSC announced that the U.S. Air Force would take over two of the center’s three Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) hangars to house X-37B, which landed Oct. 17 in California after nearly two years in orbit; a fourth unmanned mission is planned for 2015. The hangars previously were used to process space shuttle orbiters between missions.
Boeing, which is modifying two of the OPFs for the Air Force, will use the third OPF for its CST-100 commercial crew vehicle under an agreement with KSC and Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development organization, that was first announced in 2011.
In April, NASA and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. signed an agreement to transfer Launch Complex 39A, previously used by NASA for Apollo and space shuttle launches, to the company. SpaceX is renovating the launch pad to accommodate its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. Colloredo said the first SpaceX launch from the pad is planned for sometime next year.
Colloredo said KSC continues to work with Space Florida to take over the Shuttle Landing Facility, the 4,570-meter runway built in the 1970s for space shuttle landings. NASA selected Space Florida in 2013 to operate the runway and has been negotiating a formal agreement since then. “We’re still in negotiations,” he said. “We do expect those to be completed soon.”
One existing facility that is still available to commercial users, he said, is the Vehicle Assembly Building. While the building will continue to be primarily used by NASA to assemble Space Launch System vehicles, one of four bays within the building will be available to companies for their own launch vehicles or other uses.
Colloredo said KSC is in discussions with a number of potential additional users of the center’s facilities. In his presentation here, he listed several, including Blue Origin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory and Moon Express, but did not discuss what each organization is proposing to do at KSC.
Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards, speaking here Oct. 15, said the company was considering using KSC for tests of the MX-1 lunar lander it is developing in pursuit of the Google Lunar X Prize. The company would use the same site near KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility where NASA’s Morpheus test vehicle flew a series of vertical launch and landing tests that concluded this year.
“If all goes well, we’ll be flying a terrestrial version of our spacecraft down at the Shuttle Landing Facility, where Morpheus flies, within two months,” Richards said.
Colloredo interpreted those agreements in place, and the partnerships under discussion, as evidence that KSC had achieved its goal of moving from a facility that primarily supported only the space shuttle to becoming a “multiuser spaceport” for government and commercial vehicles. “We like to think we’ve transformed pretty well,” he said. “We survived the transition.”