CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — A recent article which stated that NASA’s famous Launch Complex-39A is poised to be abandoned is not correct. AmericaSpace got to the heart of the matter by speaking to officials in charge of the location that men first set forth to explore another world.
Rather, the space agency is looking at having commercial space companies launch their rockets and spacecraft from LC-39A.
According to Spaceflight Now, one of the more prominent potential customers is none other than Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). SpaceX has propelled the NewSpace movement to the forefront of the public’s imagination and has expressed interest in possibly using LC-39A to launch the company’s new Falcon Heavy rocket.
During the tour we reviewed some of the more prominent portions of LC-39A, including the “rubber room,” where astronauts would be whisked to in the event of an emergency on the pad, and the flame trench, where the destructive exhaust and acoustics of launch are directed away from the shuttle.
One thing is clear: NASA does not plan to abandon this structure and has every intention of seeing the structured used by one of its commercial partners for years to come.
As mentioned, Launch Complex 39A is a historic site, and if NASA ever did plan to permanently cease use of the location, the agency would have to restore LC-39A to how it appeared during the Apollo era. LC-39A is the spot where Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins launched from on Apollo 11, a lift off that culminated in the first human footprints on another world. This has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Operating such a structure is expensive and NASA’s budget is not getting any larger.
“’How low can we go to restructure it? Shutting down ‘abandon in place’ does not apply here. If that was done? The pad would have to look like it did in the Apollo days. This site is on the National Register of Historical places so it not feasible to do that, moreover we don’t have the funds to do that. We have to find a balance, and are trying to find a happy medium. Taking a line item out of the budget (not cutting the grass) is not the answer; the only real way is to pull a badge to lower the monthly cost. The NASA hierarchy will make the decision how low do you want to go. This is like peanut butter—you have to spread it around to make it work,” said NASA’s Pad Manager Steve Bulloch.
When the report came out that NASA intended to abandon LC-39A, AmericaSpace reached out to NASA directly to clarify what the space agency actually has planned for the pad.
“We are going to maintain LC-39A for use for a potential customer and we have parties that are interested in utilizing the complex, but none that we can name specifically at this time,” said NASA Public Affairs Officer Mike Curie. “Preserving LC-39A from a historical standpoint is a moot point because it is our intent to make it available for commercial use and we are discussing this with interested parties.”