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multi-user spaceport

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

Multi-user spaceport is the name of the business plan that the Unites States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) implemented to transition its launch site facilities from government-use only to public-private use. The agency wants to attract partner companies and organizations who are willing to partner with NASA's space centers in exchange for being able to launch private rockets. The John F. Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast was the first space center to adopt new practices by taking the multi-user spaceport route. Under the plan, the operation of facilities that NASA is not using will be transferred to partners and the agency will dispose of unneeded facilities. Based on need, new economically and environmentally sustainable facilities that can be used by a variety of people, organizations and programs will be constructed.

In 2011 as the Space Shuttle Program was coming to an end, Kennedy Space Center began pursuing partnerships with the U.S. aerospace industry. NASA works with commercial partners to help them identify technical requirements, anticipate operational impacts and develop solutions to leverage the center’s launch infrastructure and capabilities. The space agency, which now has partnerships with more than 90 companies involved in commercial space manufacturing, processing and launch operations along Florida’s Space Coast, has said that the transition is occurring rapidly.

Among the most notable deals is Kennedy Space Center’s 2014 signing of a 20-year agreement with SpaceX for the operation and use of Launch Complex 39A, which is known for being the historic Apollo and Shuttle launch pad. SpaceX uses the pad for commercial launches – for example, its Falcon Heavy rocket demonstration launch in February 2018. According to NASA, SpaceX is responsible for the launch vehicle and payload, while NASA organizations verify that “support requests are complete and confirm the readiness of Kennedy’s facilities, equipment and infrastructure for launch.”

Other partnerships include the following:

  • Boeing is modernizing Bay 3 of the shuttle era's Orbiter Processing Facility to transform it into the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF), where the aerospace company will prepare its CST-100 spacecraft, now in development with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to transport astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. Additionally, Boeing engineers are preparing the company's Starliner capsule for crew flights to the International Space Station in the same facility once used to do the same thing for space shuttles.
  • NASA teamed up with PaR Systems for the operation of Hangar N at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and its nondestructive testing equipment.
  • Craig Technologies will maintain unique processing and manufacturing equipment in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for mission support at the space center. The facility, formerly known as the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot, now is the Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing Center.
  • Other partners include Energy Florida, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Space Florida and United Paradyne. Blue Origin, a privately funded aerospace company focused on providing commercial access to suborbital and orbital space, is also expected to become a partner. 
This was last updated in April 2018

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