Public Workshops Could Happen As Early As Summer
Federal Aviation Administration has granted the Jacksonville
Aviation Authority approval to move ahead with the licensing
process for construction of a spaceport at Cecil Field in
That process will require the FAA to review specific details
about the site, including potential federal policy violations and
safety issues, according to The Florida Times-Union. "It's all
about safety of the uninvolved public," said FAA spokesman Hank
The approval review process looked at environmental issues, such
as noise. The noise problem at Cecil Field and the accompanying
public complaint is the reason the Navy stopped using the former
military base altogether.
Since the FAA started overseeing commercial space flight in
1989, it has licensed about 170 launches, Price said, and has never
had a public casualty or significant property damage.
The next step will be public workshops that could occur as early
as this summer.
The FAA will be handling that part of the process, said Todd
Lindner, airport administrator of planning and development. He said
he expects sessions to be conducted around the end of June or early
That Cecil Field would even be considered for such a venture
didn't occur until last year when a Florida Space Authority report
said Cecil Field is "the best airport for aircraft-like launch
vehicles" because spacecraft used there could take off horizontally
rather than vertically.
It appeared then as though the Space Authority was going to
select a site to serve as the state's first public commercial
spaceport, but that seems to have stalled. Cape Canaveral has long
been the home of the nation's space-related enterprises, but its
space center is laden with restrictions on private operations that
limit its appeal to commercial operations.
New Mexico and a few other states have already taken steps get
their own spaceports going. As ANN reported, New Mexico
Governor Bill Richardson recently announced the appointment of Rick
Homans as executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority
to ensure the program's ambitious schedule. The site, located in
Upham, NM, also recently hosted its first successful launch.
But, Florida's commercial space efforts appear to have slowed
due to major changes taking place in the state's space agency's
infrastructure, including being combined with several other
agencies last year. This is what led the Aviation Authority to
strike out on its own rather than waiting for the state to lead
them into space, according to the newspaper.
"That could have delayed the process," said authority spokesman
The state indicates it is still interested in Cecil Field,
however. The director of the reforming space agency continues to
visit the site.
The Aviation Authority will be poring over the FAA's comments on
the environmental assessment for the next several weeks, Lindner
said, and are shooting for licensure within the next year.
"There appears to be no deal breakers," Lindner said, "no major
barriers. They indicated we should consider starting the formal