For Sale or Rent: Used Launchpad, Well-Loved
Although NASA hasn’t put out an official “for sale” list, news reports indicate that several facilities at Kennedy Space Center are available to the highest bidder, including one of the launch pad where the Apollo missions and many space shuttles started their journeys, as well as space in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building.
After 2013, federal money will no longer be available to maintain facilities at KSC that are left over from the space shuttle era and are no longer being used. Currently, nothing is up for public auction, but NASA has been in discussion commercial space companies and other interested parties who could buy or rent.
“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, speaking with WESH TV in Florida. “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.”
Among the facilities up for bid are Launch Pad 39A; space in the gigantic Vehicle Assembly Building, which was first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, which are huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and pieces of undeveloped property.
Launch Pad 39B is being retooled for NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS).
Reportedly, NASCAR is renting the 3-mile-long space shuttle runway for race car tests.
NASA already has partnered with Space Florida and Boeing, which is leasing one of the shuttle hangers. 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.
While this means NASA is moving forward with the next generation of vehicles and missions, it has to be hard for the people who worked on the space shuttle program to see this happening.