NASA Picks Small Fla. Firm as Caretaker for Shuttle-era Equipment

by

WASHINGTON — NASA will loan a cache of high-tech equipment once used to fabricate and refurbish space shuttle parts to a small Florida company called Craig Technologies, which will use the equipment to expand its manufacturing capabilities.

Under an unfunded Space Act Agreement signed June 22, Melbourne, Fla.-based Craig Technologies will take possession of 1,600 pieces of NASA-owned equipment in January and hold on to it for up to five years. NASA could take the equipment back sooner if it wants to, the agency said in a July 3 press release.

But for as long as it has possession of the equipment, Craig Technologies, through its Cape Canaveral, Fla.-based Machine & Tool division, is free to use the equipment and make money from it — so long as NASA gets its property back in the same condition in which it turned it over.

“Craig Technologies will seek out new business in other industries to make use of the NASA equipment,” Craig Technologies spokeswoman Carey Beam said in a July 3 email. The company’s efforts will focus on “manned and unmanned vehicles, commercial space systems, energy components, and research activities in the defense, aviation, space, transportation/automotive, and energy sectors.”

“This partnership benefits new customers who will use the equipment now, and keeps it close for our use in future spaceflight projects,” Joyce Riquelme, manager of the Kennedy Center Planning and Development Office, said in a July 3 NASA press release.

The equipment NASA is loaning to Craig Technologies is kept at the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot, a facility in Cape Canaveral, just south of Kennedy Space Center. Most of the equipment is in Building One, which at 15,000 square meters is the largest in the eight-building depot complex. United Space Alliance (USA), the Houston-based company that maintained and operated the shuttle fleet for NASA, leases the building under an agreement set to expire in March. Craig Technologies, which has to keep NASA’s equipment within 80 kilometers of the Kennedy Space Center, said it is talking with USA’s landlord about keeping the equipment where it is.

“Negotiations with the property owner are under way to determine the agreement for the use of the existing facility in Cape Canaveral where the equipment is currently located,” Carey said.

USA was the steward for the depot equipment during the shuttle program, and NASA wanted to maintain the arrangement. In October, the agency released a solicitation seeking a caretaker for the equipment. Florida economic development officials said this was a procedural formality NASA had to go through to give the work to USA.

Then, in December, USA’s parent companies, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, barred USA from seeking new contracts. This eliminated USA as a possible steward for the millions of dollars worth of equipment stored at the depot, and NASA reopened bidding for the job in January.

Now, Craig Technologies, which employs about 300 people and makes almost all of its money from government contracts, has the job. Eight of Craig Technologies’ 35 active government contracts are with NASA, Carey said. Other contracts are with the U.S. Defense and Transportation departments. The company had about $27 million in revenue for 2011.

Before the shuttle program ended, USA and Florida tried and failed to find other uses for the equipment at the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot. The goal was to provide jobs for at least some of the 400 people USA employed at the depot while the shuttle program was in full swing.

Aided by Florida’s aerospace economic development corporation, Space Florida, USA tried to sell the military on the idea of using the depot and its work force to refurbish hardware returning from combat overseas. USA and Space Florida also advanced the idea of using the depot’s specialized equipment to screen government and commercial hardware for counterfeit parts. Neither idea gained much traction, and the small contracts USA did get to demonstrate the depot’s capabilities — including counterfeit screening of commercial airline parts and fabrication of commercial satellite components — are set to expire in the fall, according to the company.

RELATED ARTICLE

Caretaker Sought for More NASA Surplus Shuttle Gear