Saturday, September 22, 2012

The New Neighbors

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The proposed commercial launch pad would be near the old farm community known as Shiloh. Image source: Google Maps.

Florida Today reports that Space Florida has asked for land near the far north end of Kennedy Space Center to build a commercial launch complex.

The state wants to develop a commercial launch complex at Kennedy Space Center, a move that could persuade SpaceX not to pursue a similar site elsewhere in the country.

In a letter sent Thursday to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll requested 150 undeveloped acres at the northern end of the space center, near the former citrus community of Shiloh.

With Federal Aviation Administration approval, the site would operate outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Range, which provides safety and tracking for launches from KSC and Cape Canaveral.

“The State proposes to develop and operate this site as a commercial launch complex independent of the neighboring federal range and spaceports,” Carroll wrote.

In the earliest plans for Kennedy Space Center, three additional launch pads were to have been built northwest of the current pads:

A 1963 map envisioning the future Kennedy Space Center. Image source: Wikipedia.

The described location would seem to be about where LC-39E would have been.

UPDATE September 23, 2012Edward Ellegood at Florida SPACErePORT adds depth and history to the proposed Shiloh site:

Back in 1988, a feasibility study was completed for Spaceport Florida, identifying sites around the state that could accommodate the nation's first commercial spaceport. The study identified the "Shiloh" site near the northern boundary of Kennedy Space Center (land managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a National Wildlife Refuge) as one of the two most attractive orbital launch locations...the other being the unused launch pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Environmental groups were quick to demand that Shiloh be removed from consideration, causing a race between then Republican Governor Bob Martinez and Democratic House Speaker Tom Gustafson to be the first to officially strike Shiloh from the list (see this archived 1989 article).

UPDATE September 23, 2012 5:45 PM EDTReuters has more on the proposed land deal.

Some of the requested land is believed to be owned by Florida, which lays claim to about 56,000 acres of the 140,000 acres that comprise the Kennedy Space Center and the surrounding Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The federal government was allowed use of the land for the national space program, with the caveat that it would revert back to the state if it was no longer needed for NASA's purposes.

NASA never developed the Shiloh site.

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