NASA’s historic space shuttle landing facility has been transferred to a state agency in Florida.
SPACE HISTORY SITE
The Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center is a significant location in the history of human space flight. Challenger was the first space shuttle to land at the facility in 1984. This was the first time a spacecraft landed at the same location from which it was launched. And the last shuttle to land at the facility was Atlantis in 2011—the final shuttle mission.
A reported seventy-seven shuttle missions concluded at the Shuttle Landing Facility, which boasts one of the longest runway in the world (15,000 feet).
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
NASA’s space shuttle program came to an end in 2011. This ignited a new era of commercial space flight, spurring the development of countless private space companies.
On Monday, June 22, 2015, NASA officially transferred the responsibilities of maintaining and operating the Shuttle Landing Facility to Space Florida—the state of Florida’s spaceport authority and aerospace development organization.
NASA selected Space Florida to manage the facility back in 2013. But the 30-year property agreement was just made official.
“Our journey to Mars goes straight through Florida, and this agreement helps amplify the many ways that our critical Kennedy Space Center can support the next generation of human spaceflight,” says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
NASA Will Continue Operating Aircraft
The agreement permits NASA to continue using the facility for its aircraft operations. But Space Florida will use the site to give private space companies a location for testing new technologies and space planes. Companies like Sierra Nevada Corp. and XCOR are expected to use the facility. Space Florida will also make the facility available for customers with unmanned aerial vehicles. The Air Force’s secretive unmanned space plane, the X-37B, will reportedly land at the facility at the conclusion of its current mission.
“This marks the dawn of a new era for horizontal spaceflight in Florida and the country as a whole,” says Space Florida president/CEO Frank DiBello. He continues, “The most storied runway in the world will now become the cornerstone of Florida’s next generation commercial spaceport.”
This arrangement will also reportedly create more than 200 jobs.