Why is Commercial Launch Important for Florida?
Florida used to own 100% of the global commercial launch market. Now a majority of that share has gone overseas. Why? Because the U.S. continues to struggle creating launch sites that are commercially friendly. In Florida in particular, there is significant concern about legacy governmental processes and conflicting national security priorities that provide significant barriers for commercial companies that desire rapid, cost-effective launch options. The potential for the commercial space industry to provide significant jobs and economic impact to the state of Florida make it an industry worth pursuing aggressively. Florida’s 50+ year history of space launch and proven infrastructure, workforce and supply chain make it a perfect fit for expanded commercial spaceports.
What’s the Status of Florida’s Commercial Launch Network?
Today, Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville is an FAA-licensed spaceport that can host suborbital, horizontal launches from its site. In July 2014, Generation Orbit (a nano-satellite launcher) hosted its first test flight from Cecil in preparation for its first commercial launch, currently slated for the end of 2016. The company projects an additional eight flights in 2017 and up to two flights per month by 2019. Additional horizontal launch customers are currently in dialogue with Cecil Spaceport as well.
Shiloh Commercial Spaceport
In 2012, the State of Florida requested 150 acres of NASA land located at the north end of the Kennedy Space Center, near Daytona. The site – known as “Shiloh,” which is largely unpopulated at this time, would be developed into a dedicated commercial spaceport. Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana communicated his support to the Federal Aviation Administration in April 2013 for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Study of the site. Today, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is working with the State of Florida to complete the Environmental Impact Study, which is anticipated to be complete by late 2015. Following the successful completion of that study, Space Florida will submit a formal application to the FAA for consideration of a Spaceport Operators License at the site.
Kennedy Space Center
In 2013, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center officially signed over management of the former Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), which is composed of a large hangar and 15,000-square-foot runway) to Space Florida. In March 2014, Swiss Space Systems (S3) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Space Florida for utilization of the SLF for zero gravity flights beginning in 2015. The adjacent 50,000-square-foot Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) hangar currently houses the Starfighters develops, operates and certifies suborbital, reusable shuttle that launch small satellites into space.
In addition to these sites, Space Florida continues to seek out locations across the state of Florida that will provide additional resources for commercial companies seeking Florida-based launch options.