Posted by: realtormarkpalace | July 14, 2011

Space Florida nonprofit scores space station deal at KSC

Managing outpost’s US lab shows that Space Coast’s offerings go beyond shuttle

CAPE CANAVERAL — A Kennedy Space Center-based nonprofit will take over management of the portion of the International Space Station designated as a national laboratory, NASA announced Wednesday.

The decision is a significant victory in local efforts to diversify the area’s space operations beyond launching rockets as the shuttle program nears its end.

The $15 million organization won’t employ many people but establishes the Space Coast as a gateway for space-based research that could attract additional resources.

“This is a big deal,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, said in a statement. “It’s going to bring money, jobs and industry to diversify an area hard-hit by retirement of the shuttle program.”

Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, created the nonprofit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, and led a partnership that submitted a proposal to NASA.

The organization will be in the Space Life Sciences Lab, a KSC facility opened in 2003 with $30 million in state funding. The lab is
the anchor tenant of a planned research and technology complex called Exploration Park.

A formal contract award won’t be made until later this summer after NASA and the new center negotiate terms.

NASA would not say how many proposals were submitted, or identify Space Florida’s partners in the initiative.

Space Florida President Frank DiBello said in a statement that CASIS “has already secured the interest of a very strong group of aerospace companies, research entities and higher education institutions interested in utilization of the orbiting lab.”

Following instructions from Congress, NASA announced last December its intention to name an independent nonprofit to manage non-NASA research on the station’s U.S. segment, or about half the outpost’s U.S.-controlled science capacity.

The station was designated a national lab in 2005, but research — and particularly non-NASA research — so far has taken a back seat to assembly and maintenance.

That’s supposed to change now that construction is complete and the station’s operating life has been extended from 2015 to at least 2020.

NASA will maintain control of experiments focused on its exploration goals, such as the effects of long-duration spaceflight or materials for new spacecraft.

But lab facilities used to test materials, grow plants and study vaccines in microgravity will be made available to companies, universities and other government agencies for their own purposes.

The goal, NASA officials have said, is to generate a return for taxpayers on their investment in the $100 billion outpost.

“Maximizing value is the key word here,” Mark Uhran, NASA’s assistant associate administrator for the station, told reporters earlier this year. “Value comes in many different flavors. It’s not just economic value, but there’s obviously value in generating scientific knowledge.”

It will be the new center’s job to solicit, select and execute non-NASA research proposals. A board of directors will be established with experts in various fields to assist in the selection.

The center will likely employ 15 to 25 people full-time and begin its work in the 2012 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, funded with up to $15 million.

Activity will ramp up as commercial cargo deliveries to the station begin early next year. SpaceX, one of two companies under contract to deliver cargo, will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The new nonprofit adds to other developments that promise to broaden KSC’s traditional role, though they won’t employ as many people as the shuttle program did.

A new KSC-based office will manage the development and flights of private space taxis NASA hopes will be ready to fly astronauts to the space station by 2015 or 2016.

Final assembly and checkout of the Orion capsule being built for deep space exploration missions also will be performed at KSC.

The addition of the nonprofit to manage the station’s national lab, said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, “is another bellwether step towards diversifying Brevard’s space industry in a post-shuttle environment.”

Contact Dean at 321-639-3644 or


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