FAA Bypasses Florida Spaceports With Latest Grants
Around the State
Officials say Florida's status as a space center remains intact, even though the Federal Aviation Administration issued grants to three other spaceports working on commercial-crew programs.
The FAA awarded grants to:
- Spaceport America, outside Las Cruces, N.M., to build a "roll-back vehicle integration building" to provide mobile pre-launch support for larger vehicles. Spaceport America received $249,378.
- The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, in Wallops Island, Va., to improve security and remote monitoring. MARS, which received $125,000, currently operates two medium/heavy lift launch pads for low-Earth orbit.
- Mojave Air and Space Port, in Mojave, Calif., for "supplemental environmental assessment." Also $125,000.
Florida -- home to two of the country's eight federally licensed spaceports -- remains the nation's premier space state, officials say.
Spaceport Florida at Cape Canaveral and the Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville both hold spaceport designations from the FAA, and officials expect to continue attracting a variety of commercial-crew projects.
Florida submitted a processing project for consideration by the FAA, but it was not funded.
"We took a shot and it didn't work," a spokesman said.
The spokesman, who declined to be identified and would not divulge details of the application to the FAA, added, "Florida is getting quite a bit of support and assistance from the FAA in other ways. The Florida Department of Transportation is also funding projects."
Officials said that Florida's relationship with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and other commercial-crew ventures remains on track.
"FAA funding was simply one potential option, but not the only one. We maintain a good working relationship," the spokesman said.
"Our goal is to create a network here. The hope is that payload manufacturers and processors will see Florida as a place to do business."
In awarding the FAA grants, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “These grants will go a long way toward meeting President Obama's National Space Policy and its greater emphasis on using the commercial space industry to meet our current and future space transportation needs."
The FAA has issued more than 200 licenses for commercial space launches.
Space Florida president Frank DiBello was not immediately available for comment.
The spaceport field is becoming increasingly competitive.
The MARS facility is reportedly reaching out to private firms, offering tax breaks and other incentives to operate in Virginia.
Oklahoma is seeking tenants for a former Air Force base it has converted into a spaceport, and projects in Puerto Rico and on the Texas coast are in preliminary discussions with Elon Musk's SpaceX, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Meantime, Spaceport America announced that its 2-mile-long runway for space planes is ready for business.
However, the $209 million New Mexico complex has encountered numerous delays and cost overruns, and Republican Gov. Susanna Martinez has said the state's taxpayers are done subsidizing the project.
Contact KenricWard at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.