Could Kennedy Space Center host 300 rocket launches a year?
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral,. Four astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station, in the first flight using a reusable rocket. Image via AP.

Between private spaceflight, NASA and Space Force, there's activity on the horizon.

As private space flight expands in new ways, Florida remains home to America’s most prominent space port. So how many humans heading into orbit will launch from Kennedy Space Center?

Tom Engler, KSC’s director of Center Planning and Development spoke last week in Winter Park at the Florida TaxWatch spring meeting. He discussed how the federal government and a host of private companies with interstellar ambitions are shooting beyond the horizon.

“We have created an environment together, between us and the Space Force, that has enabled commercial space business to come to Florida,” Engler said.

The Space Force, a branch of the military launched under former President Donald Trump, decided last year to locate the Space Force Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) at Patrick Space Force Base in Cape Canaveral. Alongside the work at NASA at KSCO, the presence of publicly funded spaceflight still roars through the Space Coast to a large degree.

But increasingly, private missions are sent up from the launchpads of Titusville as well. KSC has set a goal to have five companies running human space flight businesses out of the Florida center by 2025. It has four doing so already: Blue Origin, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and SpaceX.

Of course, most of these companies are at a stage of investment, not significant profit-seeking. Similarly, the role of a spaceport today is different from an airport working with private carriers.

“The business of a spaceport is not a money-making proposition,” Engler said.

But like the companies it works with, KSC is focused on expansion in the future. The Center developed a Spaceport Growth Boundaries effort looking at ways to expand the physical space, on earth, to accommodate the port. There’s only around 7,500 acres of space available for future development available at the center right now.

But Engler said KSC is working on options with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Visitors to the center know much of the land around KSC remains a natural preserve.

KSC has worked with Space Florida to facilitate growth and welcomes more partnerships with the state. Officials at the center worked with Florida Department of Transportation for a redesign of the aging Union Bridge with the transport of rocket payloads in mind and are nearly at budget for a rebuild.

“That was the best thing we ever did, was work with FDOT,” Engler said, noting eyes on other bridges as well. The growth in private companies doing work at the center also has created greater demands on the power grid at the center, and Engler foresees a need to perhaps triple the available electricity capacity.

Barely a decade ago, the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011 closed a chapter of human space flight and began a period of uncertainty on the Space Coast.

But in 2023, KSC saw 75 launches. Engler hopes to see 120 launches this year, and perhaps as many as 300 annually within a few years. Partnerships, including with the state, are a big reason the potential for growth exists, Engler said.

“The State of Florida played a huge part in making this a reality,” he said.

Tom Engler, of Kennedy Space Center, speaks to Florida Tax Watch. Photo via Florida TaxWatch.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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