By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
NASA is still reviewing options on what to do with the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), which has been largely idle since the last space shuttle touched down 18 months ago.
“Regarding your request for the Shuttle Landing Facility, NASA is currently assessing responses to the recently published Request for Information (RFI) seeking to identify entities that may be interested in maintaining and operating this National Asset,” NASA Associate Administrator L. Seth Statler wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. “A decision regarding the disposition of this asset will follow the completion of the RFI response assessment and review of the Space Florida proposal.”
NASA is looking to transform SLF, which has a 15,000-foot long runway, into a public-private partnership that would serve both government and commercial needs. The RFI was intended to gauge interest and identify possible operators prior to the likely release of a request for proposals.
Space Florida is not the only party interested in the SLF. The Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority, which owns and operates three local general-aviation airports, has expressed interest in operating the facility.
At least two commercial space companies — Stratolaunch Systems and XCOR Aerospace — are considering using the SLF. Stratolaunch is building a massive aircraft that would air launch satellites into space. XCOR has a suborbital space plane that takes off and lands on a runway.
In November, Florida Today reported that Space Florida — the state’s development agency — had approved spending $5 million to re-purpose facilities at the Kennedy Space Center for a classified military program code named “Project Coyote.”
Speculation has centered on the U.S. Air Force’s pair of reusable X-37B shuttles, which launch from Cape Canaveral but land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Air Force officials have been looking at saving money by consolidating the program in Florida and landing the autonomous space plane at the SLF.
Documents have linked the spending to the overhaul of Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPF) 1 and 2. These structures were used for space shuttle work until the program ended in 2011. Space Florida is rehabbing OPF 3 for use as part of Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew program.