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Florida plans commercial spaceport

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DocM    12,775

Primary target: luring SpaceX away from building its spaceport at Boca Chica beach near Brownsville, Texas. Boeing, Lockheed, their ULA joint venture, Orbital Sciences too.

The state proposes a commercial launch facility at the site of the former community of Shiloh.

The state is pressing forward with studies related to the commercial launch complex it has proposed establishing at the north end of Kennedy Space Center, while awaiting word on whether NASA will make the property available.

Space Florida recently asked interested companies to describe launch and recovery operations they might pursue at the proposed ?Shiloh? complex, named for the citrus community located there before NASA seized the land to support Apollo program moon missions. That information will inform environmental studies of impacts to roughly 150 acres that fall within the Merritt Island Wildlife National Refuge near the the Brevard-Volusia county line. ?We?ll initiate our environmental assessments around the kind of operating launch profiles, the concepts of operations that we receive back from industry,? Space Florida President Frank DiBello said.

The state requested title to the land from NASA last September, citing market demand for a launch complex that operated near but independently from existing Cape facilities controlled by NASA and the Air Force?s Eastern Range. SpaceX is known to be pursuing such a site in locations across the country, including Texas and Georgia.

NASA has said it is reviewing the proposal.

The state?s request for information, released Dec. 14, adds some detail to what has previously been outlined about the Shiloh site, including:

? It is expected to house launch and processing facilities ?for one, and potentially two, commercial launch providers operating dedicated pad areas independently.?

? The complex would serve ?existing and emerging? rockets with only liquid-fueled primary boosters, in the class of SpaceX?s Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy; United Launch Alliance?s Atlas V, Delta IV and Delta IV Heavy; and Orbital Sciences Corp.?s Antares.

? The requested 150 acres are still undefined and may not be contiguous to accommodate sensitive wildlife or cultural resources.

? The state may secure about 75 acres for an initial operator and reserve a similar amount for a potential future development by a second operator.

? According to a map, the ?proposed site evaluation area? straddles the county line west of State Road 3.

In responses due Jan. 23, companies were asked to include information about their plans for rockets, facilities, flight paths, flight rates and any booster recovery operations envisioned at the site. Environmental assessments could begin in the first quarter of this year, concurrent with NASA?s deliberation about the property, and take 12 to 18 months.

Overall, DiBello said early dialogue with environmental, political and aerospace stakesholders has been encouraging.

The state thinks commercial and natural interests can be satisfied ?with a very, very small fraction of the property that?s up there, and without disturbing in any major way the environmental sanctity that?s appropriate to the area,? he said.


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