Report: NASA to Turn Shuttle Landing Facility Over to Space Florida, Paving Way for Lynx Flights

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)
The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Space Florida is the victor in competition to control the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The privatization of SLF, which was a 3-mile long runway, will pave the way for commercial spaceflights by XCOR’s Lynx and other vehicles.

The preliminary deal, to be announced at KSC on Friday by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, would give Space Florida control of one of the largest landing strips in the world and one that’s enshrined in space history: Nearly 80 shuttle crews landed there before NASA ended the 30-year program in 2011….

A top executive with the California company XCOR Aerospace, a space-plane builder that has expressed interest in the runway for months, said the preliminary agreement makes it all but certain that it would establish a base at the strip for “participant flights” — beginning as soon as 2015.

“It’s always been our hope to fly from the shuttle-landing facility, and it looks like that’s starting to materialize,” said Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer of XCOR. A deal to locate at KSC was “99 percent of the way there,” he said, with only paperwork remaining….

In addition to XCOR, another potential customer is Stratolaunch Systems. The Alabama-based company, which counts former NASA chief Mike Griffin on its board, is looking to build a massive aircraft — about twice the size of a 747 — to enable the launch of crew and cargo into space….Stratolaunch officials have said that KSC is one option for a launch site.

A bigger prize, however, could be in the growing business of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones.

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  • Stuart

    Sorry but I have to ask this obvious question… how much is the annual maintenance cost for this site and who will in future pick up this bill?

    It is after all a historic site.

    I ask this as an English man living in the UK watching as there are significant cutbacks being made here in both our infrastructure and social services.

    Surely with sequestration taking place in the USA with it’s National debt of 16+ Trillion you must be feeling the pinch by now.

  • I think the Orlando Sentinel story said the costs were about $2 million per year. Space Florida would make that back in leases. XCOR wants to fly out of there. It might also build its Lynx space planes there. There’s Stratolaunch as well as UAVs which may fly from there as well.

  • Douglas Messier

    I think the story says it costs $2 million per year to maintain the facility. Space Florida would make that up with leases to XCOR and other tenants.

  • Stuart

    Thank you Douglas for pointing this out, in the great scheme of space commerce $2 million really isn’t an insurmountable amount I suppose.

    XCOR, I’m sure will have included this costing (or similar) in their business plan.

    I wonder if we will also see Dream Chaser landings there as well?