Does anyone need a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships? Or a parachute-packing plant? An array of aerospace tracking antennas? A launchpad?
Make us an offer, says NASA, which is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the facilities used by its space shuttle program, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.
The last shuttle flight ended in July 2011, when Atlantis made its final touchdown. That orbiter, like its sisters Discovery and Endeavour, is now a museum piece.
As soon as some remaining cleanup and wind-down are finished at Kennedy Space Center, the shuttle program will be history.
That has prompted NASA to advertise a long list of KSC facilities and equipment as available for use, lease or, in some cases, outright purchase by the right business.
Among them: Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, essentially huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and chunks of undeveloped property.
A lot of the stuff needs to be transferred by the end of 2013, when federal maintenance money will run out. When it does, machinery will start to rust, and buildings will deteriorate in the harsh coastal-marsh environment of Cape Canaveral.
“We have a lot of things in discussion, realizing that these major facilities have been funded by the space shuttle program,” said Joyce Riquelme, NASA’s director of KSC planning and development.
“And the facilities out here can’t be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable. So we’re in a big push over the next few months to either have agreements for these facilities or not,” Riquelme said.
The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public.
NASA has at various times published official notices seeking proposals and spelled out that the proposals should be space-related, though the agency will consider alternative uses under certain circumstances.
But information about who wants to do what may not come until agency officials actually select finalists for negotiations.
“The first deals should start coming together in the next six months. We look at what’s available, the prospects for commercial space businesses moving into Kennedy facilities and the possible effects on the space center,” Riquelme said.
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