Sunday, July 3, 2011

KSC "Changing, Not Vanishing"

The Page 1 story in today's Florida Today says that "While acknowledging the difficult economic and emotional hit caused by the shuttle's end, local and NASA officials are promoting reasons for the Space Coast to be optimistic about its future."

More than 8,000 people still will report for work at Kennedy Space Center, and several interplanetary NASA science missions are nearing launch from the Cape. SpaceX by year's end could become the first private company to send a vehicle to the International Space Station.

To bolster the "yes, there's life post-shuttle" message, NASA plans to outline soon how it will build a rocket able to take astronauts on exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit, where none ventured during the shuttle era.

And additional announcements are expected to show how KSC is transitioning to embrace developers of private space taxis that could bring new jobs.

The article by space reporter James Dean notes that some are peddling "a gloomier narrative, one that frames the shuttle's retirement as the end of U.S. human spaceflight, considers NASA's path forward vague and imagines Kennedy Space Center virtually shutting down."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a Friday afternoon speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. hinted at "major announcements" in coming days regarding commercial crew development and the leasing of Kennedy Space Center facilities to commercial interests.

Dean's article provides more details:

To facilitate that goal and other potential commercial initiatives, such as suborbital space tourism flights, KSC and Space Florida are working to open former shuttle facilities to commercial users for processing or manufacturing work.

A new tenant may be named soon for the hangar that for years housed shuttle fleet leader Discovery.

Cabana said 11 agreements have been signed with commercial or government entities and more are in negotiation.

Among the companies interested in KSC facilities is Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems, whose seven-seat Dream Chaser resembles a mini-shuttle.

A separate article in the Business section titled "Mass Marketing: Tourism, Business Seek Rewards from Final Shuttle Launch Crowds" delivers an optimstic message from employers across the Space Coast.

As an army of international journalists and an estimated 1 million spectators hit Brevard County to document and witness the final shuttle launch, city and county leaders, economic development officials and tourism coordinators have an unprecedented opportunity to present the Space Coast to a massive, and some would say influential, audience.

An overriding message civic and economic development leaders will try to deliver is that Chopin’s Funeral March is not echoing from one end of the 72-mile county to the other, and that at Rivian, Embraer SA, SpaceX and other companies, the push toward innovation, job creation and a healthy post-shuttle economy continues unabated.

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