Congress, NASA

The battle for Launch Complex 39A

In May, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center issued an announcement for proposals regarding Launch Complex 39A, a Space Shuttle launch pad no longer needed by NASA (which plans to use neighboring pad 39B for future Space Launch System launches). The agency hoped to attract a commercial user who could take over use and maintenance of the launch site, which, the announcement stated, would fulfill an agency mandate to support commercial use of space while also preserving the pad, since the agency has no budget to maintain the facility.

Two companies responded to the announcement: SpaceX, which reportedly is seeking exclusive use of the pad for its launch vehicles; and Blue Origin, which is proposing making the facility a multi-user pad both for its future launch vehicles and for other customers. While NASA has yet to make a decision on who would take over pad 39A, Blue Origin has preemptively filed a protest with the GAO. The rationale of the protest hasn’t been disclosed by the company, and the GAO listing for the protest provides only the filing date and the decision due date, December 12.

Several members of Congress have lined up in Blue Origin’s corner of this dispute. Earlier this month, five senators sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, opposing any deal that would provide one company exclusive use of 39A. “Aside from the serious fiscal concerns,” the letter states, “blocking use of the pad to all but one company would essentially give that company a monopoly, stifling competition in space launches and therefore raising costs.” The letter’s signatories include Sen. Parry Murray (D-WA), representing Blue Origin’s home state, as well as Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Earlier this summer, Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and James Aderholt (R-AL) expressed similar concerns in a letter to Bolden.

The Florida congressional delegation is now weighing in. In letters signed by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and by the state’s entire 27-member House delegation, they call on NASA to continue the ongoing process to lease the pad, without explicitly taking sides on whether the lease should be exclusive or multi-user. “Given KSC’s expertise, it should be within their purview and judgment to determine what factors to consider and outcomes to render,” the September 16 letter from the House delegation states. “We urge you to proceed with these plans.”

116 comments to The battle for Launch Complex 39A

  • amightywind

    Why would NASA bestow yet more gratuities on rich guy Elon Musk? Lease the pad to multiple users, or better yet let NASA use both launch sites for SLS. One launch site for cargo missions, one for manned Orion launches. It is a luxury America has earned in 50 years of spaceflight.

    Rubio again proves to be unreliable on another conservative issue. I urge Tea Party Patriots in Florida to replace him in 2016.

    • Vladislaw

      So your brilliant plan, to put the pad to good use is to let is sit empty for years at a time waiting for an SLS launch?

      SpaceX is launching now and has a 3 billion dollar backlog of SOLD flights. Blue Origin is not launching anything for another 4 years they said.

      NASA wants to get out from under the support costs. If NASA gives it to blue origin they will just jack up the use price increasing launch costs.

      SpaceX is the logical choice, they assume the upkeep and it immediately gets put into production, lowering launch costs for everyone.

      • Fred Willett

        actually their backlog is now $5B

      • Gary Warburton

        I`m curious why would SpaceX even want pad 39B they do Horizontal integration or does the building not even come with the pad. They have their own pad and could just build their own building there to accomodate Falcon Heavy.

        • Dick Eagleson

          Their current Canaveral pad can’t accommodate something as big as Falcon Heavy. The flame diverters, etc. at Pad 39A are plenty big enough though. Probably plenty big enough to accommodate anything larger than FH that Elon decides to build down the road too. Several such things have been hinted at or floated as trial ballons over the past few years. Over the term of a 20-year lease, I’d be willing to bet at least one of them would happen.

          As for the integration building, SpaceX is on the hook to build one of those wherever they wind up launching FH from. None of the VAB at Kennedy comes along with Pad 39A.

        • Fred Willett

          The existing SLC 40 pad that spaceX has is big enough for Falcon Heavy but the orientation is wrong. To put FH on SLC 40 they would need to build a ramp and road at right angles to the existing F9 access and then there is the issue of making the hold downs compatible for both F9 and FH.
          A new pad would be simpler, hence their bid for SLC 39A

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      Why would NASA bestow yet more gratuities on rich guy Elon Musk?

      You seem oblivious to what’s going on – SpaceX is offering TO PAY to use 39A. Considering that right now the TAXPAYER pays, I’d say that is a big improvement.

      And really, since we’re talking about whether it’s one internet $Billionaire or another, why do you care?

      Lease the pad to multiple users…

      Considering that no one has ever shown that multiple rockets from multiple manufacturers can use a single launch pad, I’d say Bezos is the one that has the bigger burden of proof in this.

      …or better yet let NASA use both launch sites for SLS.

      Oh, now I see. You were really just joking. Ah, humor – not your strong point.

      But just in case you were serious, keep in mind that NASA can’t even keep the current Pad 39B busy enough to justify only one user. If anything, Pad 39B should be turned into a multi-use pad, with the SLS just one of the customers.

      I urge Tea Party Patriots in Florida to replace him [Rubio] in 2016.

      My, how quickly you eat your young… ;-)

      • Dick Eagleson

        Windy isn’t really a Tea Party-er. He just tries to play one – badly – now and then for effect.

      • amightywind

        SpaceX is offering TO PAY to use 39A. Considering that right now the TAXPAYER pays, I’d say that is a big improvement

        You would. It saddens me to see America pawn its most prized assets. How low we have sunk as a nation. We are morphing from a great nation into an insurance company. I think of the enormous opportunity cost of leasing this national asset. Let Musk launch from Brownsville.

        My, how quickly you eat your young

        A turncoat is a turncoat. The sooner realized the sooner we can make the correction.

        • Coastal Ron

          amightywind said:

          It saddens me to see America pawn its most prized assets.

          They are not being “pawned”, but leased. If you don’t understand the difference, then maybe you shouldn’t be offering an opinion on this subject.

          We are morphing from a great nation into an insurance company.

          So Lockheed Martin and Boeing having leased Michoud over the decades is cause for concern? Leasing government property that no longer has a government need is a good outcome for the taxpayers that paid for the assets originally.

          You should really be directing your anger at Congress for mandating that NASA build an HLV, but they have refused to let NASA use it. Because of that NASA has no forecasted need for two launch pads, and really doesn’t even have a need for full use of one.

          A turncoat is a turncoat.

          I think it’s entertaining that just two years ago Rubio was being feted as a potential Republican President, and now he’s being blamed for all the things that are wrong with the Republican party. If the Republican party continues to lose “marketshare”, you will be one of the reasons for that…

    • Jim Muncy

      Windy,

      At least you don’t think two launch pads for SLS is a national security necessity!
      You’re right it’s a luxury. What political stakeholder have you gotten to agree to give up $250m of their money to modernize LC39A to support SLS missions (like 39B)?
      Don’t just volunteer some program you don’t like. Which one have you actually convinced to give up the money for your LUXURY of two launch pads for a system that will only launch once every 2 to 4 years.

      And NASA isn’t bestowing any gratuities on anyone. It has co-invested with SpaceX to obtain a necessary ISS cargo resupply capability. It is competitively leasing a launch pad to one of two companies. Both owned by wealthy successful American entrepreneurs. Both of which would have to invest substantially in order
      to retain rights to the launch pad.

      Why wouldn’t Rubio be for creating real jobs in Florida now, instead of hoping that one day enough money will flow through Utah and Alabama and Louisiana to actually complete SLS and fly it more than once or twice in Florida? Are you saying Rubio should prefer future government contracting jobs to today’s private sector jobs satisfying the global demand for commercial communications satellite launches?
      Are you saying that Floridians should remain shackled to the State Leviathan, instead of winning jobs back from Russia/Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and France?

      Gee, I thought you were a Patriot, Windy. Guess you’re just another big government “conservative”.

      – Jim Muncy

  • Why is the Obama administration only developing one launch complex for the SLS when some flexible path deep space scenarios will require at least two launches within hours or days of each other?

    Sounds like Dr. Evil (Holdren) and President Obama are still trying their best to keep future Presidents from fully using the SLS.

    You really have to admire the administration’s stealthy perseverance in trying to cripple a program that they never wanted:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

    • Vladislaw

      Because everyone in congress knows SLS is a porktrain to nowhere and will be cut. You do not need launch pads for vaporware launch systems.

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      …when some flexible path deep space scenarios will require at least two launches within hours or days of each other?

      Can you point to any of them that are funded?

      See, that’s the problem you always have Marcel – your dreams get crushed by reality.

    • Gee, I didn’t know science fiction was allowed on this forum.

    • Hiram

      “You really have to admire the administration’s stealthy perseverance in trying to cripple a program that they never wanted:-)”

      In all fairness, that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

      “some flexible path deep space scenarios will require at least two launches within hours or days of each other”

      Um, for example? Doesn’t sound that flexible.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “some flexible path deep space scenarios will require at least two launches within hours or days of each other”

      Reference?

      There’s nothing new in the Augustine report that requires a launch “hours or days” after another.

      Constellation’s lunar architecture, however, did require Ares I and V to launch within a day of each other.

      • MrEarl

        The Augustine report, besides being outdated and overtaken by policy and practice over the past 4 years, makes NO mention of specific missions and time frames. It can also be interpreted as recommending an HLV similar to SLS. But that’s all water that passed under the bridge a long time ago.

        Since the SLS will use a “clean pad”, leasing to companies for non-exclusive use would give NASA the ability to use 39A if multiple SLS launches are needed in the future.

        • Coastal Ron

          MrEarl said:

          Since the SLS will use a “clean pad”, leasing to companies for non-exclusive use would give NASA the ability to use 39A if multiple SLS launches are needed in the future.

          NASA doesn’t even see a future where the SLS requires exclusive use of one launch pad, which is why the are leasing their second pad and not requiring access to it. Can you point to any indication from Congress that they are wrong?

          And whether more than one rocket from more than one rocket company can use the same pad is still an unproven theory. It certainly hasn’t been proven to work in the U.S. Plus, the business case for it (i.e. that multiple companies have no other choice than to use a multi-use Pad 39A) is also unproven.

          That ULA signed onto the letter is pretty funny, since they have already indicated by their actions that companies would rather build unique launch pads for their own rockets rather than sharing them.

        • Vladislaw

          In an article at SpaceNews, Bolden just said the SLS will only be launching once every three or four years… not much threat that a pad will be over used.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “The Augustine report, besides being outdated and overtaken by policy and practice over the past 4 years,”

          The other poster made a claim about “flexible path” missions. That term and those missions originate in the Augustine report. That makes the report relevant to the poster’s discussion.

          “makes NO mention of specific missions and time frames.”

          Sure it does. Each of the options has a 2010-2030 schedule laying out what missions would happen when. See p. 84, 86, 91, etc.

          “leasing to companies for non-exclusive use would give NASA the ability to use 39A if multiple SLS launches are needed in the future”

          The SLS launch rate will meet production rate over the long-term, and the production rate requirement for SLS is one stack every other year. At that rate, the chance that SLS will need an extra pad is nil. Its own pad will go unused for two years at a time.

          • common sense

            “The other poster made a claim about “flexible path” missions. That term and those missions originate in the Augustine report. That makes the report relevant to the poster’s discussion.”

            Actually the term “flexible” dates back under the GWB WH, see here

            http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf

            “Our aim is to explore in a sustainable, affordable, and flexible manner.” Sean O’Keefe Administrator

            So called “flexible-path” was another attempt at the O’Keefe/Steidle Spiral Approach with more emphasis on commercial launches even though the CEV Phase 1 choice for the LVs was originally left to the contractors and they included the EELVs.

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      The big problem is that the funding doesn’t exist for multiple SLS launches over a short time-scale. So, even in the event of a mission being funded that requires, say, a cargo and a crew launch or even multiple cargo launches, these will be spread out over a year or more, so only one pad is really required.

      Congress are eager to see SLS being developed. They seem less interested in ever seeing it ever fly.

  • John Malkin

    NASA doesn’t need it. Why should American tax payers pay for something they don’t need?

    I expect SpaceX would like exclusive control since they may outfit it with propriety technology plus they wouldn’t need to schedule around other companies. This isn’t their first launch pad so I think they understand the risks. Also I expect they can afford it.

    I don’t think Blue Origin can justify the launch rate v. expense and they would like to share the cost with other companies. I have the two questions ‘How many companies?’ and ‘When would they come online?’. I would worry NASA could end up holding the bill if an agreement was too nebulous. Blue Origin should work with other commercial providers including SpaceX to share it then bring the plan to NASA. NASA shouldn’t have to fill-in the other slots.

    The upgraded mobile platform is supposed to reduce the time on the launch pad. NASA is already planning to share 39B because of the flight rate of SLS. Some of the 39B modifications are to support commercial providers. Don’t Tea Party members want to spend less tax payer money?

    • Coastal Ron

      John Malkin said:

      I don’t think Blue Origin can justify the launch rate v. expense and they would like to share the cost with other companies. I have the two questions ‘How many companies?’ and ‘When would they come online?’.

      Well that is the question here. The only other two launch companies are Orbital, which just finished it’s Virginia launch facility and hasn’t announced any plans for bigger rockets, or ULA, which already has dedicated launch facilities for their two rockets (i.e. Atlas V and Delta V).

      Other than SpaceX, I don’t see who Blue Origin would share the pad with. And considering the pace of launches that Blue Origin is making versus SpaceX, having Blue Origin in charge doesn’t make a lot of sense – Blue Origin would just be a pad manager, not a major user.

      I haven’t really weighed in on this previously, but it’s starting to look more and more like SpaceX would have the better justification for using Pad 39A versus Blue Origin. And no matter who wins, they should have total control over who uses it, since getting the government involved (i.e. politicians) means that no company in their right mind would ever cede the fate of their company over to such an arrangement, and they would make plans elsewhere – and that negates the business case for pad sharing.

      The upgraded mobile platform is supposed to reduce the time on the launch pad.

      Only the SLS will use the MLP, and the problem with the SLS is it’s lack of funded use, so flying every two years or so means that, if it’s possible to share a launch pad, that NASA would be able to share 39B.

  • Go4TLI

    Doesn’t it make sense that in order to maximize commercial opportunity that one would want both pads to be compatable with as many launchers as possible?

    The oft-used arguement of commercial being we need to maximize the business case to lower launch costs, etc always gets tossed if there is a chance to bash SLS or promote SpaceX (who has not lived up to their own self-generated hype regarding supplying ISS, commercial launches, etc). Why then should SpaceX be handed a government asset for complete control of for the next 20 years?

    • Jim Nobles

      -
      GoATLI said, ” Why then should SpaceX be handed a government asset for complete control of for the next 20 years?”

      Because they are willing to pay good money for it and because they are serious about using it?

      I believe the other group just wants to grab it to keep their competitor from having it.

      • Go4TLI

        And a 20 year *exclusive* lease allows SpaceX competitors to use it????

        If someone else operated that pad, and it was for multiple users, then why couldn’t SpaceX also use it and pad 39B?

        • Jim Nobles

          Whoever gets 39A will want to be able to use it when ever they want and for as long as they want. The multiple use idea has been talked about a lot but I don’t really think anyone wants to have to work in that situation. If SpaceX asked me I’d tell them to bid for the pad as a single user or not bid on it at all. It’s just not worth the hassle trying to juggle multiple users.

          Having said that I suspect SpaceX is going to end up with 39A since no one else has demonstrated the ability and willingness to do what it takes to keep a facility like that in operating shape. At least no one who doesn’t already have their own pad.

        • Coastal Ron

          Go4TLI said:

          If someone else operated that pad, and it was for multiple users, then why couldn’t SpaceX also use it and pad 39B?

          So you want them to have to build two of everything? What do you think they are, the government? ;-)

          But seriously, anyone with business sense could answer that, and the answer would be why have to support two pads when all you need is one?

          If anything, since the SLS is only planned to fly once every 2 years (and that’s still a big if), it makes sense to make Pad 39B into the multi-use pad.

          • Vladislaw

            NASA says that because it has no further use for Pad 39A — the Space Launch System would launch from Pad 39B — it no longer has room in its roughly $17 billion budget for the $1.2 million in annual maintenance costs required to preserve the pad. In addition, NASA officials including Bolden said because the deep-space rocket was only slated to fly about once every three or four years, Pad 39B could easily be shared with commercial companies who wanted to launch from Kennedy.”

            (bold mine)

            Florida’s Congressional Delegation Backs NASA’s Plan to Lease Old Shuttle Pad

            A bold statement by Bolden … lol

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Doesn’t it make sense that in order to maximize commercial opportunity that one would want both pads to be compatable with as many launchers as possible?”

      No. There are already too many range conflicts slipping schedules down there. Add pad conflicts and nothing will get reliably launched timely, which is critical to commercial and national security customers.

      “If someone else operated that pad, and it was for multiple users, then why couldn’t SpaceX also use it and pad 39B?”

      That “someone else” (Blue Origin) is planning a hydrogen-fueled vehicle. SpaceX has gone the kerosene route. The plumbing would be a nightmare, if not outright incompatible, on top of whatever physical limitations the two vehicles place on each other.

      A hydrogen pad like 39B would fit Blue Origin well and I understand why they want to lay claim to it. But they haven’t made good progress on their vehicle and are years from operations. Give the pad to someone who can use it soon.

      • Go4TLI

        This is the sorriest excuse I have ever heard. “Advocates” like yourself completely compromise your principles in order to gush all over SpaceX.

        It is insane to think and say launch frequency is part of the key to lower launch costs but then to say a multi-use pad is out of the question because it will be too good of a thing and cause “range conflicts”.

        Finally if 39B is already going to be a multi-use pad, then that means for everyone. Not just cryo boosters. There are concepts out there for both and you are making it into an issue, when not one, to try to fit your pre-conceived decision on what must be done and only that done.

        • Glenn

          There are only three potential users :

          -SLS once every 2 years, not before 2019
          -Blue Origin once every ????, not before 2018 (if ever)
          -SpaceX : beginning as soon as 2015 with a high launch rate, they will obviously launch much more often than SLS and Blue Origin combined.

          Question : why would you need two multi-use pad for only three users?

          • Go4TLI

            Why do those have to be the only users? Where’s ULA and if someone other than SpaceX wins crew rotation? After all 2 out of 3 contenders use ULA launch vehicles.

            • Glenn

              ULA? Another joke? They have their own launch pads for all their rockets, they don’t need 39A and they did’nt bid for it anyway.

              The funniest thing with you is that you are trying to say that Blue Origin can operate a multi-user pad with SpaceX and their high launch manifest but they can’t operate a multi-user pad with SLS that will only fly once every 2 years. Are you really serious?

            • Vladislaw

              There are four companies. SpaceX, S.Nev., Boeing, Blue Origen. Three are planing on launching on the Atlas near term and they already have their own facilities decaded to their launchers. The only other one is SpaceX.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “It is insane to think and say launch frequency is part of the key to lower launch costs but then to say a multi-use pad is out of the question because it will be too good of a thing and cause ‘range conflicts’.”

          First, you don’t read for comprehension. I didn’t say that a multi-user pad causes “range conflicts”. I wrote that a multi-user pad adds “pad conflicts” on top of the existing “range conflicts”.

          Second, you don’t think before you post. Launch frequency and scheduling conflicts are deeply linked. You don’t want layer upon layer of range conflicts and pad conflicts screwing up every provider’s schedule if you care about launch frequency.

          “Finally if 39B is already going to be a multi-use pad, then that means for everyone. Not just cryo boosters.”

          Who, besides Blue Origin, said that this pad is going to be multi-user? Or that multi-user necessarily means LH2 and kerosene?

          Are you having delusions on top of your reading and thinking issues?

          “There are concepts out there for both”

          Where? In your fevered delusions?

          “and you are making it into an issue, when not one,”

          It’s not an issue if such a conversion costs zero bucks and takes zero time.

          But since we don’t live with Tinkerbell in Fantasyland, it is an issue.

          “‘Advocates’ like yourself completely compromise your principles in order to gush all over SpaceX.”

          The only reference I made to SpaceX in my post was that their engines are kerosene-fueled.

          If that makes me an “advocate”, then I’d rather be an “advocate” than an “idiot” like you who doesn’t understand what he reads, doesn’t think before he writes, and labels other posters in the absence of any evidence that they fit the label.

          And why do you care so much? So that Jeff Bezos doesn’t have to spend 0.1% of his $30B fortune digging the flame trench for a new pad three years from now? This is what you spend your spare time on? Saving pennies for bazillionaires?

  • Florida Today on the unanimous action by Florida’s congressional delegation:

    “Florida Delegation Supports NASA on Launch Pad Lease”

    Overlooked in all this is the response letter sent by NASA in August to Reps. Frank Wolf and Robert Aderholt who were shilling for OldSpace. As quoted in the Space News article:

    NASA believes that the argument for or against one operating concept is secondary to the demonstrated capability of any proposer to undertake the financial and technical challenges of assuming an asset of this magnitude.

    The operative phrase is “the demonstrated capability.” Blue Origin hasn’t demonstrated anything. SpaceX is flying. Blue Origin, by its own admission, won’t be flying until 2018.

    Blue Origin is all talk. SpaceX is doing it. That’s the difference here.

    • Go4TLI

      “Blue Origin is all talk. SpaceX is doing it. That’s the difference here.”

      I don’t think that’s true and if you were honest with yourself and looked at SpaceX objectively you would see a heck of a lot more talk than “doing it”. Certainly SpaceX timetables of have slid to the right considerably over what they claimed. Costs have gone up.

      All that however is a moot point because if Blue Origin renovates and operates the pad, there would seem to be no reason SpaceX could not launch from it.

      • Coastal Ron

        Go4TLI said:

        I don’t think that’s true and if you were honest with yourself and looked at SpaceX objectively you would see a heck of a lot more talk than “doing it”.

        Now whose not being “honest with yourself”?

        Look, I wish Blue Origin all the best of luck with their efforts, but so far they have concentrated on sub-orbital, and they haven’t quite made it yet. Who knows when they will have an actual need for a pad the size of 39A?

        And as far as SpaceX “doing it”, let’s look at the evidence:

        o Falcon 1 – five launches, with the last two successful.

        o Falcon 9 v1.0 – five launches, all successful.

        o Dragon cargo spacecraft – four launches, four successful missions.

        o Falcon 9 v1.1 – 1st test vehicle is at the pad, with launch soon.

        o Falcon Heavy – 1st test vehicle is planned to arrive at the launch site by late 2013 or early 2014, and fly sometime in 2014. SpaceX has posted pictures of the 1st stage bodies being processed at their factory.

        o Dragon crew spacecraft – on schedule for a 2015 company test flight, and meeting all planned NASA CCiCap milestones.

        Any “honest” comparison would show that SpaceX is far ahead of what Blue Origin is doing, and they have a customer order backlog that supports their desire for a 4th (possibly 5th) launch site.

        All that however is a moot point because if Blue Origin renovates and operates the pad, there would seem to be no reason SpaceX could not launch from it.

        You are assuming facts not in evidence. Please tell us where two or more different rockets from different manufacturers have used the same launch pad for concurrent operations?

        The burden of proof is upon you to show that sharing a pad is a good idea, not SpaceX.

        • Go4TLI

          “The burden of proof is upon you to show that sharing a pad is a good idea, not SpaceX.”

          Really? Seriously? I don’t need to prove anything to you. You just rant on this one site more or less with the same other people who try to rip apart anyone with a slightly different viewpoint that does not support what you and others think should be done in your armchair-quaterback world.

          I’ve seen you rant for a while about how things should be done differently on this or that. Yet now, convienently, you are sticking with the old mentality of “it’s never been done before, therefore it must not be able to work”.

          Finally, I never said SpaceX has not made accomplishments. I simply pointed out that calling Blue Origin “all talk” is not accurate while assuming SpaceX can do no wrong and has always met every promise they have ever made

          • Coastal Ron

            Go4TLI said:

            I never said SpaceX has not made accomplishments.

            What you said was:

            “…if you were honest with yourself and looked at SpaceX objectively you would see a heck of a lot more talk than “doing it”.”

            I pointed out the “doing” part, but you have not shown any evidence of excessive or beyond reasonable “talk”.

            If you want to talk about “talk”, then what about NASA? Lots of “talk” about doing things over the past number of decades, but as we all know most of that didn’t happen. Is that a bad thing?

            Yet now, convienently, you are sticking with the old mentality of “it’s never been done before, therefore it must not be able to work”.

            Let’s remember that what we’re talking about here is what two business people (Bezos and Musk) want to do. And as I mentioned previously, I hadn’t really weighed in one way or the other until this Space Politics thread, and only then because I think I’ve seen enough evidence for and against both sides.

            From what I can see from what both companies are doing, SpaceX has a stronger use case for 39A than Blue Origin does. That is based on the likelihood that SpaceX would use 39A for Falcon Heavy (which already has customers), and that Blue Origin itself doesn’t currently have a need for a pad the size of 39A, nor is likely to find other customers that would need 39A.

            To keep things in perspective here, Falcon Heavy is not likely to fly that often from the East Coast (1-3/year maybe), but far more often than the SLS, and since Blue Origin doesn’t yet have an orbital rocket that needs to launch from KSC, more often than Blue Origin. That’s not a lot of traffic, but again, SpaceX shows that they have a stronger use case than Blue Origin (or even NASA).

            And according to Bolden, he’s open to sharing Pad 39B, which should to tell you something…

          • Vladislaw

            That is silly beyond words.

            Blue Origin was founded in 2000.

            SpaceX was founded in 2002.

            Compare total launches, test launches, engine testfires, engine upgrades, tank upgrades, avionics and upgrades.

            It isn’t even a freakin’ comparison…

            • Guest

              That’s right, Blue Origin has been spending roughly a quarter of a million dollars a year to build Mr. Bezos personal spaceship with only honorary funding from NASA, SpaceX has been spending roughly half of its money from funds received from NASA competitions, building a commercial launch vehicle. Mr. Bezos wants to go to the moon, Mr. Musk wants to go to Mars.

              Give the gentleman the pad that the SLS and Orion will never use, I say. The laws of physics and engineering science are the same for both endeavors. All that is different here is the fuel of choice.

      • Dick Eagleson

        SpaceX has managed not only to fly more successful orbital missions than Blue Origin (7 vs. 0), but managed to fly more unsuccessful orbital missions (3 vs. 0) as well. I will concede that Blue has SpaceX beat on failed suborbital missions (1 vs. 0). Blue has a manned vehicle under development – first flight date TBD – but the launcher is to be an Atlas 5. Their own recoverable oxy-hydrogen booster – the one they will supposedly launch from Pad 39A – is mainly a PowerPoint slide show at this point.

        Then there’s the matter of headcount. Blue Origin’s staff is supposedly ca. 250. SpaceX’s is north of 3,000. Who’s got more bodies to throw at a major pad refit? For that matter, which organization already has two major pad refits already under its belt? SpaceX converted their existing Canaveral pad and did likewise with an old Titan pad at Vandenberg AFB to handle FH. That latter experience will be largely applicable to work on 39A.

        Now let’s talk costs and schedules. Compared to the last 30 years of NASA development efforts, SpaceX’s total schedule slippage of ca. two years or so is nothing compared to the half-dozen launcher/vehicle development efforts NASA has attempted since Shuttle, failing at all of them. I have no idea what you mean about increased costs. SpaceX has worked with NASA on a strict pay-for-defined-milestones-achieved basis. They’ve slipped the schedule for accomplishing some of those milestones, but the compensation arrangements have never been negotiated upwards and the launch prices posted on the SpaceX website for commercial customers have not risen either. That stands in sharp contrast to ULA’s pricing history. Their rockets are already developed, but the prices keep going up instead of down with increased production history – the opposite of the usual pattern for manufactured goods.

        You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to have anybody else with a lick of sense and even a cursory acquaintance with relevant facts respect a bit of it.

  • Guest

    Blue Origin is all talk

    Blue Origin is building an all new modern rocket test facility, I suggest you take a look at the published photos, they have tested a 100klb hydrogen engine and I do believe they flew past supersonic and performed an unscheduled full rocket disassembly.

    So how is your rocket coming along Stephan, is it past the ‘talk’ stage yet?

  • Gary Miles

    Blue Origins appeal to GAO to block NASA from awarding sole use of Pad 39A to SpaceX is nothing more than an blatant attempt by ULA by proxy, and through them Boeing/Lockheed Martin, to prevent a competitor from gaining greater launch capabilities thus challenging those aerospace companies in the larger satellite launch markets. Through COTS, SpaceX has demonstrated both its capability to and integrity in launching ISS cargo with the Dragon/Falcon 9 launch system. Their operation are integral to the maintenance of the ISS. Blue Origins has no track record of success and has no right or expectation of being granted a management contract to maintain a launch pad where there is no certainty of commercial launch business. ULA already operates several launch sites on the Eastern Range with one site specifically for heavy launch systems. NASA is at least 4 years, probably more, from launching the SLS/Orion system assuming program is not cancelled. With no specific vision or mission for SLS, NASA certainly does not need to maintain two launch pads. This is a waste of taxpayer money. Preventing SpaceX from conducting commercial launches is contrary to the spirit of capitalism and a fair market place.

    • Michael Kent

      So Blue Origin files a protest and you rush to judge not Blue Origin, but ULA and even Boeing and Lockheed Martin? Do you think maybe your emotions are getting the better of you?

      The protest may have some validity.

      At NASAspaceflight.com, commenter joek links to a document behind the NASA firewall that suggests that NASA has been providing documents related to the pad solicitation to SpaceX but not the other bidders. If true, this would likely be a violation of the FARs, and in that case I would expect the protest to be upheld.

      • Coastal Ron

        Michael Kent said:

        At NASAspaceflight.com, commenter joek links to a document behind the NASA firewall that suggests that NASA has been providing documents related to the pad solicitation to SpaceX but not the other bidders.

        Links to a document behind NASA’s firewall? And you’re concerned about a property lease solicitation? It doesn’t concern you that someone is breaking into government property and stealing government documents? I’m afraid you don’t have the right priorities here.

        For instance, regardless if this “leak” was valid or not, the GAO will decide if the protest has merit. That’s their job, and I have a lot of faith in them to be a non-partisan. This will get worked out.

      • Matt McClanahan

        It does seem pretty straightforward that this little drama could be be seen as more about ULA trying to hamper SpaceX than Blue Origin trying to do, well, anything at all. Did ULA bid for the pad? No, of course not, they don’t need it, they’ve already got their own launch facilities. But they are vocally supporting Blue Origin’s bid. Why would they do that if they didn’t need to use the pad? Well, Blue Origin was the only non-SpaceX bid, and SpaceX is the only company that’s even remotely threatening ULA’s bread and butter, monopoly USAF EELV service. The business argument for ULA to actively oppose SpaceX getting 39A couldn’t be more straightforward.

        Blue Origin’s bid also comes off as dubious since they’re yet to actually put a rocket into orbit (or sub-orbit, for that matter) and have already stated they won’t be flying anything for at least four years. And then there’s the silliness of believing a single pad can be cost-effectively utilized by multiple rockets with different interfaces, fuels, and integration procedures. “Multi-use pad” sounds great in a statement from a Congressman, but just doesn’t track with how every other rocket in the world is launched.

        • Go4TLI

          Ah, so because it has always been done that way, means it should always continue to be done that way?

          A mult-use pad concept is actually a very good and smart idea.

          • Gary Miles

            Which is why NASA is developing their own pad 39B as a multi-use launch facility and have offered to let Blue Origin to launch from that facility.

            • Go4TLI

              Ah, ok. I understand. Competition, multi-use for multiple launches to bring down costs, commercial operations for making money with additional customers, etc is only a halmark used to bash NASA, SLS and pretend SpaceX is the bastion of all spaceflight.

              Then, when conveinent, forget all that if SpaceX is on the other side of the coin.

              Interesting and I get the hypocracy now.

              • Glenn

                Blue Origin is not up to the task, they never launched anything in orbit, they don’t have any rocket and they don’t intend to launch anything before 2018.
                SpaceX will operate 39A, get over it !

              • Gary Miles

                What hypocrisy? That SpaceX has successfully completed the COTS program and is now launching ISS cargo missions? That SpaceX has a full roster of satellite launches scheduled. Blue Origins has one failed launch and apparently will not be launching again for several years. NASA is only planning on launching a mission every 3 – 4 years with SLS. What is wrong with making their own launch pad multi-use then? I support SLS and I hope somebody will have the strength of vision and resolve to provide NASA with a real mission that enables our nation to build a space-based infrastructure. But that is not going to happen at the moment.

              • josh

                you’re not very good at playing dumb. so transparent.

        • Vladislaw

          Great points, THIS part of the equation is not rocket science, the usual suspects are trying to slow down a competitor, like you say… pretty simple.

      • Dick Eagleson

        Emotion? Please! ULA and Blue Origin are partners in developing a manned vehicle for ISS crew transport. From a headcount perspective, Blue is a garage shop and is obviously a stalking horse in a transparent ULA effort to get in SpaceX’s way so as to preserve their lucrative monopoly on DoD/NRO launches for as long as possible. Connect the dots dude!

      • Michael Kent wrote:

        If true, this would likely be a violation of the FARs, and in that case I would expect the protest to be upheld.

        Who said the lease is covered by FAR? NASA facilities are being leased all the time, typically through Space Florida.

      • Gary Miles

        I am sorry? Did I include any exclamation points? Profanity? What emotional response?

        This is the Internet btw. Claiming that an unknown person with a blogger handle posted some link to a document behind NASA’s firewall has zero credibility. Even if they posted it on NASAspaceflight website.

        If ULA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, or even Rocketdyne, had filed an appeal then at least there would be some substance as these companies have extensive experience managing launch facilities.

  • josh

    the pad belongs to spacex and no one else. no one else is qualified, no one else is as far along as spacex. besides, a pad that can accomodate several launch companies is unrealistic and an organizational nightmare. simple as that.

  • Guest

    the pad belongs to spacex and no one else.

    Well fine then, and since everybody but NASA and congress seems to implicitly understand that SLS and Orion will never fly off of pad 39B, then I don’t see what the problem is here. Bezos is going to end up with the SSMEs and the pad anyways.

  • Fred Willett

    I can see why Blue Origin would launch an appeal. Sure there are lots of other pads that Blue Origin could get, but 39A is the only big flame duct still available on the range. If Blue Origin can get it then they don’t have to build one. And those things are expensive.
    SpaceX wants it for the same reason.
    So it’s worth doing everything they can to try and get it.
    Hence the bun fight.
    My advice to Blue Origin would be to forget 39A. There’s a pad next door which will become available well before they’re ready to fly….

    • Fred Willett wrote:

      There’s a pad next door which will become available well before they’re ready to fly….

      LC-39B is designed to be exactly what Blue Origin says it wants — multi-user.

      There’s also the proposed Shiloh spaceport up the coastline. Blue Origin has acknowledged an interest in Shiloh. If Blue Origin uses Shiloh, why do they need 39A? What is the vehicle Blue Origin plans to fly any time in the next decade that requires 39A?

      As others have noted, Blue Origin is a shill for the OldSpace contractors. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Boeing, LockMart, and/or ATK have “invested” in Blue Origin in exchange for its shilling.

      • Vladislaw

        doesn’t just flling the protest, in itself, throw another monkey wrench to slow down the process? Even if they new from the start it had no chance?

        PORKONAUTS protecting their PORK for as long as possible.

    • Coastal Ron

      From that article:

      In addition, NASA officials including Bolden said because the deep-space rocket was only slated to fly about once every three or four years, Pad 39B could easily be shared with commercial companies who wanted to launch from Kennedy.

      That is not going to support Blue Origin’s protest.

  • Jim Nobles

    Realistically what could Blue Origin bring to the negotiating table that would make it look like they’d be more suitable to operate 39A than SpaceX?

    • Go4TLI

      Their business model, potential partners, potential customers.

      • Glenn

        That is a the biggest potential joke I’ve ever heard, you may potentially become a great humorist.
        0 + 0 = 0
        Potential + potential = potential.
        “Business model” : zero successful launch, zero client. What a potential !

        • Go4TLI

          Look, they are leasing a pad. A pad they have claimed they want to make multi-user. They do not have to have launched anything from their company. If and when they get to that point they would use it like everyone else.

          There is zero reason that with an attractive offer and set-up that they could not sell the use of the pad to others, including SpaceX.

      • Coastal Ron

        Go4TLI said:

        Their business model, potential partners, potential customers.

        Apparently they already tried that, and feel that it wasn’t enough. Hence the GAO protest.

        Look, they are leasing a pad. A pad they have claimed they want to make multi-user.

        Nope, that wasn’t a requirement.

        Here is what the AFP said:

        NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is seeking proposals from industry to operate and maintain LC 39A beginning not later than October 1, 2013. This Announcement for Proposals (AFP) asks Proposers to:

        • Describe their overall financial capability to operate and maintain LC 39A as a commercial space platform;
        • Describe a technical approach for maximizing the use of LC 39A in a manner that supports the fullest commercial use of space.
        Propose whether they want to operate and maintain LC 39A in a multi-user or exclusive use environment;
        • Propose and sufficiently substantiate a lease term.

        Also, since there is some confusion (or FUD) on this, the AFP goes on the state:

        NASA KSC seeks proposals to operate and maintain the LC 39A through an agreement or agreements for a minimum of five years. For industry interest in a longer term agreement, Proposers should provide the proposed length of the agreement, and rationale for the required time period beyond five years. NASA KSC will consider requests for long term exclusive use or multi-use agreements.

        Gee, aren’t facts fun? Took me 30 seconds to find.

  • Go4TLI

    “Blue Origin is not up to the task, they never launched anything in orbit, they don’t have any rocket and they don’t intend to launch anything before 2018.
    SpaceX will operate 39A, get over it !”
    ……

    They don’t have to have launched anything yet. They are proposing to lease A PAD and, presumably, willing to finance the refit of that pad and maintenance to support a multi-use launch platform. Launch operations would likely be conducted by whomever is the owner of the launch vehicle with support from Blue Origin (and potentially their partners)and KSC operations contractor.

    I still have heard zero rationale from any SpaceX gushers why they deserve a 20 year exclusive lease of the pad. I thought all you all were pro-commercial and pro-competition and for as many launches as can be accomplished in order to bring down costs? Or is that just hypocracy when it comes to SpaceX being on the other side of the coin?

    • DCSCA

      “I still have heard zero rationale from any SpaceX gushers why they deserve a 20 year exclusive lease of the pad.” notes Go4TLI.

      They don’t. And won’t. Bear in mind, as 2013 draws to a close, Space X== indeed NewSpace= has flown nobody. Exclusivity is a non-starter.

  • John Malkin

    Go4TLI
    September 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm · Reply

    I still have heard zero rationale from any SpaceX gushers why they deserve a 20 year exclusive lease of the pad.

    An exclusive lease is unrelated to anti-commercial. This is commercial use of a government asset. The reason GAO is involved instead of FTC. The person that can pay for the maintenance of the site should get it for however long they want to pay for it. There is no reason to have two multi-user pads. NASA could build a 3rd pad by the time it needed it which would be after 2020 at the earliest. LC 39 was originally designed for 5 pads. 39A is actually 39C.

    Windy?

    • Go4TLI

      “There is no reason to have two multi-user pads”

      Why? Because you say so? Still no rationale other than SpaceX gushing it seems. Honestly, it does not bother me if they get it for valid reasons and a reasonable amount of time on the lease, which could be renewed if necessary after another open competition. I just do not believe, like some here it seems, that SpaceX somehow deserves it because they are SpaceX and like to talk a game that reality has not yet matched.

      And why would NASA build a third pad at LC 39 when it is trying to unload this one? A pad that is operated by someone that is a multi-user, and a business case that is sound and stands up to scrutiny, acutally helps the commercial operations of space.

      • John Malkin

        Why? Because according to NASA, it can’t fully utilize 39B. You can count on one hand all the NASA HSF missions until 2025.

        I don’t think they need a 3rd pad, I’m saying that IF they did need it, they could build it.

      • Jim Nobles

        Maybe as more info leaks out about the proposals we can see what kinds of business plans were considered. I think the SpaceX one is probably fairly straight-forward and easy to figure out. I’d be more interested in the Blue Origin plan, especially which partners they were hoping to do business with and how soon they expected to begin operations.

  • Vladislaw

    Are there paid shills on here for the usual suspects?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    NASA’s current planning suggests that it only needs 39B to do space exploration with the SLS, which is one reason that it is attempting to “commercialize” 39A. Fair enough, but what happens if the next administration decides that it needs to up the tempo of SLS launches? Can that be done with one pad? If not, can NASA use 39A even though it is owned by a commercial entity and may not be compatible?

    My suggestion is that it needs to go to Blue Origin with the provision that the SLS can still use it if and when necessary. SpaceX can build their own pad in Texas and use it all it wants.

    • Hiram

      “what happens if the next administration decides that it needs to up the tempo of SLS launches?”

      Yeah, it’s going to get tight if we go from one launch every three or four years to once every two. Up-tempo! Smirk. Actually, if the next administration is flush enough to bump up the SLS flight rate substantially, development of a third pad (~$200M?) would be easy.

    • Mark R. Whittington wrote:

      Fair enough, but what happens if the next administration decides that it needs to up the tempo of SLS launches?

      What makes you think that NASA Administrator Lori Garver will ask President Hillary Clinton in 2017 to increase the pace of SLS launches?!

    • Jim Muncy

      Mark,

      I have heard exactly that argument from Republican congressional staff that I really respect. But it turns out that pad 39B has been modernized so that SLS will only require 10 days of pad time — call it two weeks if you don’t pay overtime — to launch. This is from NASA’s own LC39 fact sheet on the KSC website.

      That means NASA could launch SLS ****TWENTY-FIVE TIMES**** a year and not exhaust 39B’s capacity.

      Meanwhile, my friends at Michoud say they can only make 1-2 cores per year TOPS.
      And ATK, now that they have drastically downsized, can only make two boosters (i.e. one set) per year. For the sake of argument and a generous Republican President, let’s say their capacities can be DOUBLED or TREBLED. So Michoud and ATK could maybe support 4 SLS flights a year. Who is going to make enough SLS parts to fill up TWENTY FIVE mission slots.

      Given that there is not even an “expendable SSME” program in existence yet for AerojetRocketdyne to start stamping out cheaper SSMEs (which must be much more capable than the RS-68) so that flights SLS-5 thru SLS-N have core engines to
      ignite…. what would power 4-5 SLS flights per year, let alone 25 flights.

      But if you got to print money, and wave a magic wand, and summon from the red clay of alabama twentySIX SLS vehicles per year to launch… you would not be STOPPED by any company’s OWNERSHIP of Launch Complex 39A, because NASA is not allowed by law to dispose of excess real property (i.e. land) except via the federal government’s formal processes, run by the General Services Administration, or by an act of Congress.

      Neither Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos will own LC39A. NASA will choose to award a lease to one company. That company can use it exclusively, or try to get other tenants to use it. That plan will work or it won’t. But I will almost bet that there will be a clause in that lease that allows NASA to use the pad in a crisis. It may cost NASA some money, since they could be preempting a commercial launch. It could cost NASA even more if it’s a commercial crew launch. And if NASA is using privately built improvements, they should have to pay for their use.

      But even if SpaceX or Blue put the screws to NASA in negotiating their lease, it would be a tiny percentage of what it would cost to fly the SLS more times than LC39B can handle. So obviously, in your fantasy, NASA could afford it.

      So I really wouldn’t worry. If your arithmetic is right, you’re still covered.
      And if mine is right, then 39B will have just a little bit more excess capacity.

      – Jim

    • Vladislaw

      WOW .. do you think if they went from one launch every four years to one launch every year.. that the current facilities could handle such a break neck pace? Maybe you should call ole Rick “Gravel Road” Perry for some advice.

    • josh

      the next administration will cancel sls. there will be a review panel (call it augustine 2) and they will conclude that sls is unaffordable, over budget and behind schedule. it will be a rerun of the end of constellation.

  • Jim Nobles

    Based upon what little we know I can’t think of a single good reason to give the LC39A bid to Blue Origin. They don’t seem to represent an actual group of launch companies that would benefit from 39A being multi-user. And, as has been pointed out, 39B could fulfill that role. They aren’t planning on any launches of their own within the initial 5 year lease period. It seems they just want control of the pad for other reasons. Maybe they are thinking 5 years ahead to when they might actually could make use of it. Or maybe they are acting as a front for other entities who don’t wish SpaceX to gain control of the pad. That seems a bit unlikely since Bezos doesn’t really need such other entities.

    At any rate the view from here and now suggests SpaceX should acquire 39A.

  • Glenn

    “SpaceX can build their own pad in Texas and use it all it wants.”

    Blue Origin can build their own pad for their non existing rocket and use it all it wants.

    • Mark R. Whittington

      Glenn, the Blue Origin proposal is the better deal if one wants to encourage space commercialization across a variety of countries and not just for SpaceX. SpaceX is mulling its own space port in South Texas, which would be a better deal for it than leasing a government space pad as it would have complete control in a state known for its business friendly government.

      • Vladislaw

        Yup, ole Rick “Gravel Road” Perry sure knows how to get SpaceX to come to “business friendly government” of Texas

        Why Texas Bans the Sale of Tesla Cars

        Because nothing brings business faster to a state then Plan to Convert Roads to Gravel Begins Despite Pushback yup, ole Gravel Road knows business.

        • Neil Shipley

          So, there’s an oil boom on and the direct recipients i.e. the companies, don’t want to shoulder their fair share of the road upkeep, the politicians won’t do anything, and the ordinary citizens pay for it. Sounds like graft and corruption to me. But that’s just an echo of the sad state of affairs in Federal Congress.

      • josh

        lol, rick perry is a crook and an incompetent governor whose deregulation is directly responsible for that fertilizer plant accident. not to mention the stacking of education boards with creationists and executing innocent people.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “the Blue Origin proposal is the better deal if one wants to encourage space commercialization across a variety of countries”

        Why are you worried about commercialization in other countries? And since when did leasing a NASA pad one or more U.S. companies help commercialization in other countries?

        How idiotic…

      • Glenn

        A proposal from a company without any rocket that never launched anything higher than 14 km before crashing it?
        Sorry, I find this ridiculous.

        • RockyMtnSpace

          Kind of like SpaceX in 2004/2005. But don’t stop with the commentary, this is great fun. I love to see newspacers eating their own, especially Muncy.

          • Jim Nobles

            RockyMtnSpace said, ” But don’t stop with the commentary, this is great fun. I love to see newspacers eating their own, especially Muncy.”

            Boy are you out of touch with reality. This entire thread is about newspace worrying over the bones of oldspace and deciding how to divide them up.

          • Jim Muncy

            Excuse me… who am I eating? Or is eating me? (If they are, they must be on Atkins!)

            I know it’s appealing to look at this debate as a clash of internet titans or NewSpace brand A versus NewSpace brand B. But that’s mostly oldspace spin.

            First of all, nobody ever said that NewSpace companies don’t/won’t compete with each other. That’s called free enterprise. We like that.

            But this is not a fight between NewSpace companies over whose rocket is better today, or will be better tomorrow.

            I think the arguments here about Blue’s capability are stupid. Blue has not claimed to be able to start launching rockets at 39A right away. They have claimed that they have multiple tenants lined up to use an upgraded 39A.

            SpaceX has a working launch vehicle and a book of business. They clearly can use it right away themselves.

            NASA KSC should be allowed to judge which bidder’s paradigm is most likely to make beneficial (i.e. to Florida, to the nation) use of 39A. Instead, politicians are trying to preempt the competition, claiming they are acting on behalf of commercial space while making RIDICULOUS arguments about needing 39A for SLS.

            Oldspace hacks can squirt all the NewSpace perfume on themselves they want, but it doesn’t mask the stench of statist self-interest.

            • Coastal Ron

              Jim Muncy said:

              Instead, politicians are trying to preempt the competition, claiming they are acting on behalf of commercial space while making RIDICULOUS arguments about needing 39A for SLS.

              Yep, nailed it.

              I’m perfectly happy to have a non-partisan review process decide the merits based on the lease requirements, which I listed from the proposal previously (see September 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm).

              Competition is good. Fair competition. Unfair competition is bad (i.e. when politicians get involved).

              Let’s root for the right things.

            • Neil Shipley

              Great turn of phrase in your last paragraph. Well done indeed Sir!

          • Glenn

            “Kind of like SpaceX in 2004/2005. But don’t stop with the commentary, this is great fun.”

            Yes indeed. Blue Origin was founded in 2000, SpaceX in 2002.
            Six years after SpaceX reached orbit, ten years after SpaceX docked with the ISS.
            Thirteen years after its creation Blue Origin managed to crash a suborbital rocket that flew as high as 14 km.
            Sorry, these two companies are not at all alike. But please keep going on you SpaceX bashers, as you said this is great fun.

  • Jim Nobles

    When I first heard SpaceX wanted 39A I thought, “What the hell do they need that thing for? It looks like a money pit to me.” Even know I wonder why they just don’t go ahead and build what they need in Texas.

    • Neil Shipley

      Crew, FH and MCT would be my bet.

    • Coastal Ron

      Jim Nobles said:

      Even know I wonder why they just don’t go ahead and build what they need in Texas.

      Pad 39A could be a replacement for the Brownsville site. One of the problems with the Brownsville site is no doubt getting qualified people to live there. That part of Texas is lightly populated, and that’s not the most conducive to attracting the high salary people that would be required to run a busy spaceport.

      No doubt they could make it work, but I’m just thinking that Pad 39A might be one of their choices for their current launch site search. Yes it has range issues, but maybe they think they can work around them, or that they think they will eventually get fixed.

      My $0.02

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      Let’s face it: Musk is a skilled salesman and hype-engineer. Launching crew off of the pad where men once went to the Moon is priceless in marketing terms.

  • Great column in Florida Today by editor Matt Reed:

    “Giant Leap for Smarter Government”

    The victory was the huge savings to taxpayers from a risk taken years ago by an agency known for paying billions more than expected for spacecraft due to unrealistic plans or delays.

    NASA started the commercial-cargo program under President George W. Bush. It is a victory for smaller, smarter government.

    President Barack Obama tried to apply the same contracting process to human flights to the space station. Ironically, House conservatives including Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, lost their nerve.

    Congress pushed NASA to narrow the field among space upstarts and steer the process for commercial-crew back to a slower, more expensive purchasing process. The companies will still own and operate the spaceships they develop.

    Meanwhile, Congress directed billions more to construction of NASA’s giant Space Launch System rocket, the Orion crew capsule and a massive launch tower. That work has been done under the old system, in which taxpayers cover whatever costs arise, plus a profit to the contractors, with government making all the decisions.

    It has gone as you’d expect.

  • DCSCA

    Once upon a time, these national assets, owned by the people of the United States, were labeled, ‘Moonport, USA’- Early on, a third pad was planned (39C) for Saturn ops but budget contraints credited to the rising costs of the Vietnam war scuttled it.

    Among the sadder, lingering memories of KSC are 1) the demolition of the Mercury/Atlas LC-14 and its rusting gantry– front page news in the mid-1970s BTW- and 2) LC-39A & 39B empty and amidst quiet reconfiguration for shuttle ops recycling steel from Apollo LT assemblies.

    The silence at KSC was deafening then. Just as it is now.

    The Kennedy Space Center is not the Hoboken ferry docks. Empty launch pads, rusting and/or abandoned in place to the elements and associated plant and animal life, reflect stagnation, indifference and indecision.

    Get a deal.
    Get them operational.
    Get flying.

    • Coastal Ron

      DCSCA whined:

      Empty launch pads, rusting and/or abandoned in place to the elements and associated plant and animal life, reflect stagnation, indifference and indecision.

      No, they reflect that the days of Apollo and the Shuttle are over, and that it’s time for people like you to understand that change does indeed happen – and sometimes not the type that you like.

      The days of government space transportation are over, and the reality of it just hasn’t caught up to the dinosaurs like you that support the SLS.

      Get a deal.
      Get them operational.
      Get flying.

      There was a deal, but someone filed a protest. That’s OK, as it will get resolved in less than six months, and then SpaceX will likely take possession of LC-39A for a 20 year period.

      And even though you didn’t know it, you will have gotten your wish… ;-)

  • ken anthony

    Another example of government stupidity. The solution is simple. An auction for a ten or twenty year lease.

    Elon pulls out (he can build elsewhere and not have to deal with all the idiocy) and Blue Origin is stuck paying the lease without having anything profitable to fly.

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