Blue Origin’s Long Winding Road to a Launch Site

At Blue Origin’s West Texas facility, the BE-3 engine demonstrated a full simulated suborbital mission profile, igniting, throttling, and restarting on command. (Credit: NASA)
At Blue Origin’s West Texas facility, the BE-3 engine demonstrated a full simulated suborbital mission profile, igniting, throttling, and restarting on command. (Credit: NASA)

Florida Today has a report on Blue Origin’s efforts to secure an orbital launch site, which could be wrapped within the next month. Florida is one of several states vying to become a manufacturing and launch site for Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.

The state’s revised proposal would have Blue Origin set up a manufacturing site in Exploration Park, a planned research and industrial complex outside KSC’s south gate, and launch from Launch Complex 36, a state-run pad on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Talks about the so-called Project Panther initially focused on the state’s proposed Shiloh commercial launch complex, which straddles the Brevard-Volusia border on property NASA shares with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. A rocket factory would have been located in nearby Oak Hill in southern Volusia County.

Like SpaceX, which plans to build a private launch complex in Texas, Blue Origin believes commercial launchers need facilities outside NASA or Air Force control to thrive, just as commercial aviation operates independently from military bases.

Speculation about the company’s pursuit of operations at Shiloh and in Volusia County began in February when the owner of a 400-acre property in Oak Hill sought a zoning change to permit manufacturing.

Shiloh opponents, upset by the project’s secrecy and worried it might involve hazardous operations near the refuge and Canaveral National Seashore, fought the zoning change.

KSC, which is touting its transformation into a multi-user spaceport, instead encouraged the company to consider alternatives outlined in KSC’s master plan. The plan suggests two locations for commercial launch pads near the center’s two existing pads.

Read the full story.

Florida Space Officials Outline Priorities for 2014 Legislative Session

florida_space_weekSpace-Related Priorities Coming into Focus
for 2014 Legislative Session

Florida Space Development Council

February 20, 2014 – Florida space industry leaders have prepared an initial list of space-related policy and funding priorities for consideration by elected officials during the 2014 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, which begins on March 4. The state’s annual Florida Space Day event, planned on March 12, will bring industry, government and academic leaders to Tallahassee to show their support for space issues.

The Florida Space Development Council will participate in Florida Space Day at the state capitol, and will monitor the progress of space-related legislation and funding requests.

2014 Florida Legislative Space Issues – Update 2/21/14
 Issue/BillHouse StatusSenate
Status 
 Comments*
Space Florida Ops Budget ($10M)Support for Space Florida’s budget, at same level received in 2013 session. Included in Space Florida’s budget request.
Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) Incentive Funding Carry-ForwardAllows QTI tax refund recipients (including aerospace companies) to have more than a single year to use tax credit allowance, or sell credits to other companies.
Space Industry Tourism Funding ($1/5M)Recurring budget item established in 2013, to support tourism attractions and space tourism flight business. Included in Space Florida’s budget request.
Commercial Launch Site (Shiloh)Support (undetailed, possibly FDOT funding) for Space Florida’s efforts to establish a new commercial launch site (Shiloh or whichever alternative is selected after EIS).
Commercialization of Federal Space FacilitiesSupport (undetailed, possibly FDOT funding) for Space Florida’s efforts to transform NASA facilities for commercial space operations.
Commercial Lease Tax CutSB-176 sponsored by Sen. HukillSupport for a general $100M, 0.5% reduction in commercial lease sales tax.
Quick Response Training (QRT) Incentive Funding ($12M)Support for maintaining 2013 funding level for this workforce
training incentive managed by Workforce Florida. Included in Gov’s Office budget request.
STEM Workforce Training ($30M)Support for STEM scholarships to state colleges and vocational schools. Likely to be added as proviso language to budget later in session.
Universities Space ResearchSupport (undetailed, possibly SUS) funding for increasing Florida university involvement in space research. Space (Florida’s matching fund for FAA-sponsored space research has expired and there’s no plan for reinstating it.)

* Note: All budget items are subject to the Governor’s line-item veto authority.

Public Hearings Planned for Shiloh Launch Site Plan

Rendering of Shiloh spaceport (Credit: Space Florida)
Rendering of Shiloh spaceport (Credit: Space Florida)

FSDC PR — Two public scoping meetings will be held to solicit input from the public on potential issues that may need to be evaluated in the EIS. The first scoping meeting will be held on Feb. 11 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., at the New Smyrna Beach High School, 1015 10th Street, New Smyrna Beach. The second scoping meeting will be held on Feb. 12 from 5:00- 8:00 p.m., at the Eastern Florida State College, Titusville Campus.

The meeting format will include an open-house workshop from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The FAA will provide an overview of the environmental process from 6:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. followed by a public comment period from 6:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The FAA and cooperating agency staff will be present during the open-house workshop portion of the meetings to answer general questions on the proposed project and the NEPA process.

The proposed Shiloh Launch Complex would be constructed on approximately 200 acres of undeveloped land in the vicinity of a former citrus community known as Shiloh. Of the 200 acres, each vertical launch facility would require approximately 30 acres of fenced land.

Shiloh supporters are asked to wear red to the scoping meetings.

FAA Announces Environmental Study, Public Hearing Dates on Shiloh Launch Site

space_florida_logoThe FAA has detailed its plans to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed Shiloh spaceport in Florida. The notice last week in the Federal Register sets a pair of public hearings to be held in New Smyrna Beach and Titusville on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, respectively.

The following information about the Space Florida-led project and public hearings is extracted from the notice.

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ISPCS Morning Session: Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX

ispcs_logoThe International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) got started formally this morning in Las Cruces, NM, with its first four speakers. The conference runs through Thursday evening.

Although I couldn’t be there, several people are Tweeting the event live. Below is a compilation of Tweets from Jeff Fust and others on the talk by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell on Wednesday morning.

I will try to keep up with the conference from Mojave and provide summaries of speakers as I can.
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Space Florida Sets Aug. 27 Public Meeting on Shiloh Site

Space Florida Evaluation Committee Public Meeting

space_florida_logoDate and Time: August 27, 2013, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)

Place: 505 Odyssey Way, Exploration Park, Conference Rooms 301 and 305

General Subject Matter to be Considered: The Space Florida Evaluation Committee Members will be considering the proposals submitted by vendors in response to the competitive solicitation for the Request for Qualifications for Environmental Services Supporting a Launch Site Operator License for the Proposed Shiloh Launch Complex, RFQ-SF-17-0-2014/MB.

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New Group Forms to Promote Spaceport at Florida’s Shiloh Site

Space_Volusia_FB_page
A new group of business and community leaders called Space Volusia has been formed to promote the development of a spaceport on the Shiloh site located the north end of the Kennedy Space Center. The description from the group’s Facebook page reads:

Space Volusia is seeking to assist private sector launches and get Florida back into the $280 billion commercial space market. In the 1980s, Florida was the leader in commercial satellite launches, but we’ve lost that market to the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Brazilians, and Indians who are getting into the market. Commercial space launches are an emerging market and spaceports have been or are becoming established in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Georgia and other states. Why? Because they see the potential for new businesses and jobs.

There is also another group called Launch FLs Future that is also promoting development of the spaceport. They are on Twitter  @LaunchFLsFuture.

Space Florida Initiates Environment Study for Proposed Shiloh Spaceport

space_florida_logoKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (July 15, 2013) – A Federal Aviation Administration-led environmental study to address the potential impacts of constructing and operating a commercial launch complex in the general vicinity of the former citrus community known as Shiloh, Fla., will be performed by an independent consultant in accordance with FAA conditions and procedures, the State’s aerospace development organization announced today.

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KSC Director Supports Shiloh Launch Site as Environmental Battle Looms

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center
Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana gave a spirited defense of NASA’s turn toward commercial space operations earlier this week, saying the space agency would not block a proposed commercial launch complex on land it controls at the Shiloh site:

“If it works out that that’s the right thing to do, we’ll make sure that the land is available for them to do that,” he said.

Asked if NASA was an advocate for the proposed Shiloh launch complex, Cabana said it was a state initiative.

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Rubio: NASA Should Dispose of Underutilized Facilities

Marco_Rubio
Marco Rubio

In an effort apparently aimed at supporting the development of a commercial space facility in Florida, the Senate has approved a budget amendment introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that urges NASA to dispose of underutilized property and facilities in order to save money and promote commercial space activities.

“NASA currently has underused facilities and property which are beyond their design life or outdated and costing billions of dollars to keep and maintain,” Rubio said in a press release.

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Florida Continues Pursuit of Commercial Spaceport

space_florida_logoSpace Florida officials are continuing to vigorously pursue the development of a commercial spaceport at the north end of the Kennedy Space Center despite resistance from the federal government and strong competition from a site in Texas.

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Blue Origin Shows Interest in Shiloh Launch Site

With touchdown 1,630 feet from the launch pad, Blue Origin completed a successful test of its Crew Capsule escape system. (Credit: Blue Origin)
With touchdown 1,630 feet from the launch pad, Blue Origin completed a successful test of its Crew Capsule escape system. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Florida Today reports that Blue Origin is also interested in operating out of the launch complex that Florida officials want to build at the north end of the Kennedy Space Center.

Blue Origin, backed by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, says Space Florida’s proposed “Shiloh” site would be a good fit for tests of a reusable booster and eventual launches of cargo and crews to orbit.

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Advantage Texas: NASA Says Shiloh is Not Excess Property

NASA LOGONASA has put the kibosh on Florida’s plan to obtain title to 150 acres of federal property at the north end of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the construction of a commercial launch facility for SpaceX.

“The property identified in your request has not been reported as excess,” NASA Associate Administrator L. Seth Statler wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. “Furthermore, this property continues to serve NASA’s long-term mission requirements, as a buffer zone between NASA mission and local communities and as a possible site for future mission requirements.”

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Potential SpaceX Launch Site in Texas Competes with Other Priorities as Florida Moves Forward

Gov. Rick Perry. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)
Gov. Rick Perry. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry prides himself on running a state government that is lean, with light regulations and low taxes to attract employers. This business friendly approach appears to be complicating efforts to put together a financial package that will convince SpaceX to locate a commercial launch facility near Brownsville.

An underfunded education system and health care reform are just a sample of the issues facing lawmakers in the upcoming session. With the University of Texas Board of Regents also pushing to accelerate creation of a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley, the proposed space venture will not even be the biggest local economic development cause.

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