Monday, June 22, 2015

The SLF: From Space Shuttles to Space Future

Whenever a journalist wants to use me in their piece, I’m honored. I have no formal journalism training, but I do have a deep fondness and respect for the profession, especially after running my undergrad’s student newspaper for a couple of years. Perhaps that’s why I use avenues such as this blog as an outlet.  It was an honor to have been contacted by News 13 of Orlando to talk about my company Swiss Space System’s plans for the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

Today, the SLF will officially be handed over from NASA to Space Florida, from federal government to state government. This has been a long time coming. I’ve had no direct involvement in this process, but I’ve been rooting for it all the way. Opening up the SLF to a wider pool of users is beneficial for all parties.

I’m excited for when my company takes off on that giant runway for our parabolic ZeroG experience flights. I can picture it - our huge Airbus taking off for the first time! But before my company was publically formed, I was looking forward to future players XCOR with its Lynx, Sierra Nevada Corporation with its Dream Chaser, and Stratolaunch with its Stratolauncher. I’m not much of a racecar fan unless I’m in the driver’s seat, but it would be thrilling to see how fast wheels could go on that long, smooth road.

It was a crisp January day when I took this shot. Where does it end?
The SLF is one of the largest runways in the world at 15,000 ft (over 4,500 m) long and 300 ft (90 m) wide. I had the pleasure of being driven quite a ways down the runway at a decently fast speed (not as fast as I would have liked, but had I been driving, I would have been kicked out and banned from returning, so it’s for the best). There are areas where the surface is purposely bumpy to maximize friction. The ground is solid enough for a space shuttle orbiter to land. There are even markings and a plaque where the last shuttle orbiter touched down in 2011.

The ending of an era.
As a side note, did you know that Kennedy Space Center build a lunar test field at the end of the SLF? Our own little version of the Moon, right here in Florida! The lunar planetary scientist in me was giddy when discovering this!

You can take a scientist out of the lab, but put her in even a fake field and she's on top of the world.
It’s a beautiful thing to see a past heritage site repurposed for the future of space travel. I have yet to see the video clip that aired on central Florida televisions yesterday, but the article associated with the TV interview is here: MyNews13. (Note: my boss runs S3 USA; I manage just S3 Florida.) Thank you to Jerry Hume and the News 13 team for the coverage of this important issue in the evolution of Kennedy Space Center!

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