September 20, 2021

Space Shuttle's Reputation Counts for Little These Days

Florida tries to expand beyond the three-decades old vehicle.

David Villano | 5/1/2008
Those gripes were highlighted earlier this year when California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, announced a lengthy delay in testing its new Falcon 9 rocket, which will supply the space station under another NASA-funded program. The 6-year-old company, backed by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, secured permission for test flights from the Air Force’s Cape Canaveral launch complex — but not without prolonged negotiations and political arm-twisting, says Lawrence Williams, the company’s vice president for strategic relations.

Orbital Space Launch Sites
Launch site
Location
Hammaguir
Algeria
Woomera
Australia
Jiuquan
China
Xichang
China
Taiyuan
China
Kourou
French Guiana
Sriharikota
India
Kagoshima
Japan
Tanegashima
Japan
Baikonur Cosmodrome
Kazakhstan
San Marco Platform
Kenya
Kwajalein Atoll
Marshall Islands
Musudan-ri
North Korea
Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Russia
Kapustin Yar
Russia
Svobodney Cosmodrome
Russia
Dombarovskiy
Russia
Cape Canaveral
U.S.: Florida
Kennedy Space Center
U.S.: Florida
Vandenberg AFB
U.S.: California
Wallops Island
U.S.: Virginia
Kodiak Launch Complex U.S.: Alaska
Source: geocities.com/launchreport/padsites.html

Williams says Florida remains his company’s preferred launch location by virtue of its strong workforce and secure location but acknowledges that other facilities — namely Wallops Island and the Kwajalein launch site in the Central Pacific’s Marshall Islands — remain attractive “fallback options” in light of their lower costs and scheduling flexibility.

Posey is not surprised. “It all comes back to money,” he says. “If they can launch cheaper somewhere else, they will. If it’s cheaper here, they’ll be back.”

Orbital Sciences spokesman Barry Beneski says as much, insisting the company will reconsider its pledge to launch in Virginia if Florida officials can sweeten the pot. “Competition is a good thing,” he says.

The state’s most immediate concern is the 3,600 jobs along Florida’s Space Coast that will be lost when NASA retires the shuttle fleet in a little over two years. NASA estimates its economic impact in Florida topped $3.6 billion in 2006; the average Kennedy Space Center salary is $72,000.

Grabbing a stake in the private launch business is crucial for Florida, officials say, because the industry will rely on small, disposable rockets to carry the bulk of the satellites and other payloads into orbit during the five-year gap between the shuttle’s final flight and the start of the next manned program, Constellation, in 2015. In other words, aerospace growth will be in small startups, many funded by NASA.

Tags: Space Coast

 

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