Could It Soon Be 'Cecil Field Commercial Spaceport?'
The Florida Space
Authority -- an economic development agency based out of Cape
Canaveral -- will discuss in a December 7 teleconference a plan to
revamp the former Cecil Field Naval Air Station in Jacksonville
(now Cecil Commerce Center) into a commercial spaceport, where
civilians would be sent into space.
Both Jacksonville and KSC-adjacent Titusville have been
considered as locations for the spaceport, according to the Florida
Times-Union. While at first blush Titusville would seem the more
logical choice, due to its proximity to one of the major centers of
American space activity, such is not necessarily the case.
Titusville's infrastructure is much smaller than Cecil Field's,
for example, with the Jacksonville location's 12,500' x 200' runway
already listed as a backup landing site for the space shuttle.
Titusville's runway is 7,320-feet long, and is 50 ft. narrower than
Consultants have said an ideal spaceport's runway would be at
least 10,000' x 200'.
Spacecraft would piggyback onboard a carrier aircraft (like
SpaceShipOne) to be released over the ocean, where the booster
firings and accompanying sonic booms would take place anyway from
land. The spacecraft would then utilize the facility's runway to
Still to be determined
in either case would be who would pay for the necessary
construction, which could range anywhere from $10.5 million to $28
million. While the spaceport would be used by private companies --
such as Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic -- that doesn't
necessarily mean those companies would be pay for construction.
The economic impact to either city would be considerable,
creating between 35 and 115 jobs, with annual revenues anywhere
from $6.3 million to $17.5 million.
Should Cecil be approved by the Space Authority, next up for
Jacksonville would be approval from the city's Airport Authority,
which has controlled Cecil's airfield since the Naval Station
closed in 1999. A license from the FAA and approval from the state
Department of Environmental Protection. That process could take
several months, according to an airport authority
The project also faces skepticism from city leaders, who doubt
the lasting impact of such a program.
"What I don't know is how viable an industry it really is," City
Council President Kevin Hyde told The Florida Times-Union.