Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Blue Panther

The first Blue Origin New Shepard test flight on April 29, 2015. Video source: Blue Origin YouTube channel.

Florida Today reports that the Board of Directors for state agency Space Florida has given its approval to complete negotiations with “Project Panther,” which the newspaper believes to be Blue Origin.

Page 51 of the Board's meeting package has the reference to the request for Board approval:

As the board may recall from our last meeting, Project Panther is competitively evaluating locations throughout the country and has expressed interest in securing long-term land and facility use agreements at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Complex for a number of properties. In conjunction with the project effort, the customer has expanded efforts to include a manufacturing facility. Space Florida is currently in the process of negotiating a Manufacturing and Launch Site Project Term Sheet, related leases and the respective securing of funding associated with the project. The funding source documents include not only traditional lending for facilities and equipment, but funding from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the North Brevard Economic Development Zone (NBEDZ). The current plan is for this project to be funded using Space Florida’s conduit debt structure. At this time, Space Florida is requesting board approval for management to complete negotiations and enter a Term Sheet that is intended to serve as the basis for the transaction structure for the project which will be memorialized in mutually binding transaction documents to be entered by the parties. In conjunction with entering the term sheet, Space Florida is requesting board approval to complete negotiations and enter long-term lease agreements with Panther for real and tangible personal property to be located at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Complex, and to enter funding agreements with FDOT, NBEDZ and to secure funding by pledging the leases in a conduit debt structure.

According to Florida Today reporter James Dean, the deal envisions Blue Origin flying orbital missions from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. LC-36 is best known for Atlas-Centaur launches from 1962 through 2005. The service towers were demolished in 2007. Space Florida leased LC-36 in 2008, and since then has sought an anchor tenant. According to the Space Florida web site, the facility has 136 acres, supporting “small and medium lift of up to 1.5 million pounds thrust to launch payloads into low-Earth orbit and beyond.”

ULA CEO Tory Bruno (left) and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announce a partnership in September 2014. Image source: Space News.

In 2013, Blue Origin submitted a bid for Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A, but SpaceX won the lease. Blue Origin filed an appeal and lost; the appeal was backed by United Launch Alliance, a SpaceX rival. ULA and Blue Origin announced a partnership in September 2014 to build a replacement engine for ULA's Atlas V rocket.

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