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Boeing Commits to Florida Kennedy Space Center for CST-100 Spacecraft

Satellite Technology

Satellite Technology Feature Article

October 31, 2011

Boeing Commits to Florida Kennedy Space Center for CST-100 Spacecraft

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

In a savvy political move, Boeing (News - Alert) has cut a deal with Space Florida and NASA on an exclusive 15 year deal to "exclusively occupy, use, and modify" Kennedy Space Center Orbital Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3). Boeing is leasing OPF-3 from Space Florida for 15 years to manufacture and test the company's Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft. Up to 550 jobs are expected to be created by the move.

OPF-3, previously used to perform maintenance on the space shuttle, has around 64,000 square feet of manufacturing and processing areas and about 64,000 square feet of office, lab and logistical areas. In addition, Boeing is also talking about getting access to Process Control Center (PCC) facilities, which would add another 99,000 square feet of control rooms and office space the company would use to support mission operations, training, and program offices.

As a part of the leasing deal, Boeing says it moving some of its design work out of Houston and to the new facility in Florida. The company says it is moving its HQ because of its close proximity to the NASA division responsible for the Commercial Crew Development (CCDeV) program, the outstanding facilities, and an experienced space workforce.

Unspoken is that Boeing will also get the aggressive support of Space Florida -- the state's independent special district to promote the space industry -- to lobby for additional Congressional support and funding of the Commercial Crew program.   With the retirement of the space shuttle, Space Florida has been very assertive and vocal in its insistence that the state be the only place where U.S. tax dollars should go for manned spaceflight.

So far, Boeing has received around $131 million in two rounds through NASA's CCDev program to develop the CST-100 spacecraft, a simplified capsule designed to take up to seven astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Designed for a short ride to low earth orbit (LEO), the capsule will ride a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to orbit.

Boeing says its business case "closes" -- they can be break-even or profitable -- solely on offering trips to ISS, but the company is also interested in providing transport to LEO for Bigelow Aerospace once it puts up a private space station into orbit for sovereign customers who can't afford or haven't been invited for full-blown participation in ISS. 

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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