Saturday, January 31, 2009

Aerospace Giants targeting competition through Florida Legislature?

Democrats did not take over state government in Florida. Republicans retain a super majority in both the state House and Senate, 75-44 and 26-14 respectively, maintaining GOP control of the legislature and the Governor's Mansion.

The reported problems legislative-appointed auditors are having with Space Florida, a 2006 creation of the legislature, cannot immediately be traced to any Party vendetta or witch hunt. Whether some intra-party changeover in Tallahassee is involved, a change in legislative committee chairmanships or staff is not immediately clear on first glance.

Nevertheless, politicians in Tallahassee may be going after Space Florida at the bidding of industry giants with deep pockets who may or may not have legitimate problems with launch facility design at KSC but whose real problem may be with having SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation and competitors for NASA plums.

Instead a report in preparation by Tom Roth of the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, the "Florida Monitor," is listed as having as a project underway, "an analysis of Space Florida's performance the requirements of the Space Florida Act of 2006."

From SmartBrief we read, "State auditors are urging Florida lawmakers to freeze funding for Space Florida until the agency can show it has a clear mission and master plan. After completing only one-quarter of its economic development agenda since 2006, Space Florida's "efforts to promote Florida's space industry are hindered by its failure to develop a comprehensive master plan," according to the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability." Lawmakers appropriated $14.5 million to rebuild Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but no commercial companies have yet signed on to use the facility. Orlando Sentinel (Fla.) (01/30)

Space Florida president Steve Kohler seems to have read a different report a day earlier, releasing a statement on the Space Florida website

Space Florida president Steve Kohler released a statement one day earlier saying he was "satisfied" with the "Government Accountability Review."

"We were happy to support this requested review of how Space Florida is tracking in its responsibilities with the numerous statutory requirements," Kohler wrote. "Space Florida concurs with OPPAGA's findings as it supports the actions and decisions we have pursued. We thank the OPAGGA team for their very thorough and professional review of Space Florida's operations and processes. From the beginning, Space Florida's goals and strategic activities have been designed around creating and establishing the competitive edge for the State of Florida and Space Florida."

"As part of our statutory requirements, Space Florida completed Phase I of the Spaceport Master Plan update. At that time, Space Florida did not have the LC-36 assignment, and Spaceport planning was being undertaken by he 45th Space Wing for the Eastern Range, and separately by NASA/KSC. It made sense to suspend further development of a Spaceport Master Plan update in isolation of the work being done by the other entities involved in civil, military and commercial launch."

"Space Florida does not see these recommendations affecting its current timeline for the construction of Launch Complex 36. The architectural and design and associated environmental studies are underway and no construction can begin until those are completed," Space Florida reports. "In the meantime, the Spaceport Master Plan updates will be integrated into the Space Florida Spaceport Master Plan and Space Florida's strategic business plan and all will be published upon completion."

From the January 30 report in the Orlando Sentinel "several legislators saw the report as damning -- and an indication that the $14.5 million they appropriated to rebuild Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was in danger of being wasted."

"It's essential that we get to the bottom of this," said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, a budget writer who is in line to be Senate president in 2010. "If they can't improve it, we need to figure out some way to do it better."

"Money for a rebuilt launchpad, intended to lure commercial ventures, has failed to attract a company willing to launch there. And the study found "there is some disagreement over the feasibility" of plans to have one pad serve different rockets."

"For example, United Launch Alliance, jointly owned by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., uses four pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for its three types of rockets that launch military, NASA and commercial satellites. Its Delta II-class rockets use separate pads because one is bigger and heavier than the other."

"Rocket-company executives also worry about potential conflicts with other users of a shared pad. That's one reason that Space X, the largest new commercial spaceflight company launching in Florida, uses a pad it leases directly from the Air Force."

"And Orbital Sciences Corp., which is developing a rocket to resupply the international space station, last year chose to launch from Virginia instead of the Cape."

"But Space Florida defended its plan last week, writing to the Legislature's analysis and accountability office that the multiuse pad "not only can be done, it has been done." And Space Florida spokeswoman Deborah Spicer said Thursday her agency has "a number of potential customers" interested in launching rockets as well as putting payloads on any spacecraft that take off from Launch Complex 36.

In (his) statement, Space Florida President Steve Kohler said the agency has begun work on a more detailed master plan. The agency wrote to the analysis and accountability office last week that it might even enlist the help of visiting Yale University architecture students "to assist us in our on-going planning needs, particularly during these very difficult financial cutbacks." The agency said it planned to have the plan finalized by December.

1 comment:

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