Florida has asked NASA to transfer 150 acres of land located north of the shuttle launch pads and the shuttle runway to the state’s aerospace development agency, Space Florida. Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll contacted NASA chief Charles Bolden and Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation by letter to claim, “Florida believes that the properties identified in this request are excess to the needs of the U.S. government.”
The letter was dated 20 September and was posted on the state’s public records website, Sunburst. One week earlier, Space Florida had agreed to spend $2.3 million on title searches, appraisals, land surveys and environmental studies to start the groundwork for Cape Canaveral Support. This is a proposed state-owned commercial complex which would be operated like an airport and licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Some of the 150 acres of land which is the subject of the request may be owned by Florida, which lays claim to approximately 56,000 acres of the 140,000 acres of land which make up the Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge which surrounds the site.
Space Florida currently has an agreement in place with NASA to operate one of the trips of space shuttle processing hangars. President and chief executive Frank DiBello has told Reuters that if the agency wants to be satisfied with 10 or 12 government launches per year, no changes would be necessary, but that the launches would probably end when other commercial sites could offer affordable rates. He is interested in targeting the commercial market for launch companies and satellite owner-operators and to establish Florida as a desirable place where they want to do business.
Commercial spaceports like the one being proposed in Florida have already been built in New Mexico, Alaska, Virginia, and California. Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida have the capacity to accommodate bigger rockets, but commercial customers are subject to military oversight when using these facilities.
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