NASA Awards Launch Pad Lease to SpaceX
December 16, 2013 | WMFE - SpaceX will lease unused shuttle launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. NASA's decision settles a dispute between SpaceX and rival space exploration company Blue Origin.
[Photo: Launch pad 39A. Courtesy of NASA.]
NASA says it will take time to negotiate a lease with SpaceX.
Dale Ketcham of Space Florida says the lease gives SpaceX the capability to launch large satellites but doesn't necessarily mean the company will take astronauts to the International Space Station.
"They're going to have to compete through the Commercial Crew Program, and NASA's intent is to have competition for as long as possible because that provides better value for the taxpayer."
Blue Origin protested to the Government Accountability Office about the fairness of the bid process, but the GAO denied the protest.
Ketcham says Elon Musk, SpaceX's chief executive officer, also wants another pad free of government tape.
SpaceX has identified a site called Shiloh within the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for a new pad but also is considering locations in Texas, Georgia and Puerto Rico.
"In his eyes, and he's prudent to understand this, he's competing with the Chinese and the Russians and the Europeans and soon the Indians and Brazilians and Japanese. He's competing on the global marketplace so he needs a pad that's clean and simple, no overhead."
Since the shuttle program ended in 2011 NASA no longer needs 39A. The agency wants to lease it out before the pad deteriorates in the salty air of the Space Coast.
NASA will rely on a commercial operation like SpaceX to take astronauts to the International Space Station while it turns its attention to Mars.