NASA on selling spree of its shuttle launch platforms

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is selling three huge mobile platforms that were used to launch the Apollo moon missions along with its space shuttle to private firms adding to the list of historic facilities and equipment it wants the private industry to take over and that includes the shuttle launch pad and its landing runway. NASA is considering competing bids for the sale of shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. The huge steel structures measuring 7.6 meters high (25ft) 49 by 41 meters on top were used to move spacecraft from rocket assembly hangers at the Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad on crawler tracks.

These structures were originally built in 1967 for the Apollo moon mission’s Saturn rockets that were then modified for the space shuttles that flew from 1981 to 2011.The space agency informed that it wants private space company to take them over or it may have to sell them for recycling. NASA is also interested in other users for the mobile launch platforms, that served as bases to stack and assemble the shuttle and then transport it to launch pad. The platforms provided power and other umbilical connections and had open section for flames and rocket exhaust to pass through. NASA is already assessing the bids for a shuttle launch pad from two competing firms backed by internet billionaires.

The Kennedy Space Center launch pad has attracted competing bids from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and chief executive of electric car company Tesla. NASA is also turning over the shuttle’s runway to Space Florida that plans to make it available to commercial companies including XCOR Aerospace, which is developing a two person suborbital spaceship called Lynx that takes off and lands like an aeroplane. The other potential customer is Stratolaunch Systems –an orbital space vehicle backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

NASA is considering keeping the second launch shuttle pad, 39B for a new heavy lift rocket under development called Space Launch System. Space X, the privately owned firm already flies from a leased launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the Kennedy Space Center. The main NASA facilities that will remain with it are the shuttle launch pad 39B in addition to various hangers on the Orion deep space capsule to be launched by NASA’s heavy lift rocket that may begin test flights in 2017.

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