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U.S.A.F. Contracts with Space Florida for Launch Support

by: Matthew Potter
February 2, 2011

Category: Business Line, Companies, Congress, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, Florida, logistics, NASA, Orbital Systems, Restructuring, S&T, Satellites, Services, space, States, U.S. Air Force | RSS 2.0

The State of Florida charted an entity called Space Florida to help grow their support to the space and aerospace industry using it to manage existing facilities located at Cape Canaveral and other sites. Set up in 2006 it combined three previous organizations related to space development and research into one. Space Florida operates a facility to assemble rockets and support launches at the Kennedy Space Center. This is part of a readjustment to the reorganization of NASA priorities that will see the last flight of the Space Shuttle in the near future.

As part of their work the U.S. Air Force issued Space Florida an ID/IQ contract to support launches of Orbital Sciences (OSC) Minotaur launch vehicles. This contract has a value of up to $48 million if all options are exercised. As with all ID/IQ contracts there is no guarantee that any work may be issued or ordered.

The Minotaur is a combination of existing ICBM rocket motors and other hardware used by the Air Force to launch small-to-medium payloads into orbit. It also is used to support testing and may carry targets and other systems. So far there have been eighteen launches of the system with thirty-one payloads placed in orbit.

The U.S. is moving to try and generate more commercial programs to provide access to space. The focus is on small companies developing new technologies or providing support services like this rather then relying on the large Defense and NASA infrastructure. This is not happening without pain as there will be significant job losses as the Florida economy adjusts to the end of the Space Shuttle with no near term U.S. replacement for heavy lift launch capability.

NASA had been developing the Ares and Orion systems to replace the Space Shuttle and support the International Space Station (ISS) as well as plan for longer missions in space but the Obama Administration restructured the program severely. This included ending work on most of the program and shifting funds to commercial companies trying to develop launch vehicles such as SpaceX.

It is too early to tell how well this strategy will work but right now the U.S. will soon be dependent on Russian systems to carry crew and supplies to the ISS until it develops the replacement for the Space Shuttle.

Photo by Nick Davis of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.

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