News / Science & Technology

    NASA Adds More Space Launch Platforms For Sale

    FILE - Space Shuttle Discovery, resting on the Mobile Launcher Platform, turns the corner on the crawlerway as it rolls back from Launch Pad 39B to the Vehicle Assembly Building, March 26, 2005. (Image Credit: NASA/KSC)
    FILE - Space Shuttle Discovery, resting on the Mobile Launcher Platform, turns the corner on the crawlerway as it rolls back from Launch Pad 39B to the Vehicle Assembly Building, March 26, 2005. (Image Credit: NASA/KSC)
    Reuters
    While NASA considers competing bids to take over a shuttle launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, it added three mobile launch platforms to its list of excess equipment available to private industry, officials said on Tuesday.
     
    Ideally, NASA wants a commercial launch company to take over one or more of the massive steel platforms, which were originally built in 1967 to support the Apollo moon program's Saturn rockets. The 25-foot (7.6-meter) tall platforms were later modified for the space shuttles, which flew from 1981 until 2011.
     
    Recycling the platforms, which measure 160 feet by 135 feet (49 by 41 meters) is another option, a solicitation on NASA's procurement website shows.
     
    The U.S. space agency also is interested in other uses for the mobile launch platforms, which served as bases to stack and assemble the shuttle and then transport it to the launch pad. The platforms provided power and umbilical connections and had open sections for flames and rocket exhaust to pass through.
     
    “At this point, NASA is looking to gage interest for potential use of the [platforms] and concepts for potential use,” spokeswoman Tracy Young said.
     
    Proposals are due Sept. 6.
     
    NASA is already assessing bids for the shuttle launch pad from two competing firms backed by Internet billionaires.
     
    NASA is also turning over the shuttle's runway to Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency. Space Florida, in turn, plans to make the runway and support facilities available to a variety of commercial companies, including privately owned XCOR Aerospace, which is developing a two-person, suborbital spaceship called Lynx that takes off and lands like an airplane.
     
    Another potential customer is Stratolaunch Systems, an orbital space vehicle backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
     
    The most contentious - and highest profile - piece of shuttle equipment available is a Kennedy Space Center launch pad that has attracted competing bids from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal and chief executive of electric car company Tesla Motors.
     
    Bezos and Musk, both billionaires, are vying for Launch Complex 39A. NASA intends to keep the second shuttle launch pad, 39B, for a new heavy-lift rocket under development called the Space Launch System.
     
    Musk's Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, California, wants 39A to launch its Falcon 9 and planned Falcon Heavy rockets. The privately-owned firm, also known as SpaceX, already flies from a leased launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the Kennedy Space Center.
     
    The first Falcon 9 rocket flight from a new launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is scheduled for next month. The company has a backlog of more than 50 launches, including 10 missions to fly cargo for NASA to the International Space Station.
     
    SpaceX also is developing a version of its Dragon cargo ship to fly astronauts.
     
    Startup Blue Origin, a Kent, Washington, firm owned by Bezos, submitted an alternative proposal to NASA to run pad 39A as a multi-user facility.
     
    Both firms say they are ready to take over maintenance and operations of the launch pad on Oct. 1.
     
    United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, did not bid on the shuttle's launch pad, but has publicly endorsed Blue Origin's proposals. The company, which has a lucrative monopoly on launching U.S. military satellites, is facing its first competition for the business from rival launch pad bidder SpaceX.
     
    The main NASA facilities that will remain are the shuttle launch pad 39B, plus various hangars for the Orion deep space capsule to be launched by NASA's heavy lift rocket, due to begin test flights in 2017.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.