Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Space Florida's "launchpad to nowhere"

Orlando Sentinel staff writers Robert Block and Mark K. Matthews have opened up with both barrels with a summary showing how some things are more easily overlooked when state revenues are always on the increase and how quickly state-incentives-driven enterprises can become exposed luxuries when belts eventually tighten.

Space Florida "has spent more than $2 million of state taxpayer money during the past six months on the early stages of a $60 million launchpad here that the agency can't find the money to finish and which so far no rocket company is committed to use."

"Despite intense lobbying and marketing efforts, the state's space-development agency has so far been unable to nail down its business case for the launchpad to nowhere which Space Florida promised would "entice a multitude of commercial space companies" to Brevard County, offsetting thousands of expected job losses when the U.S. space shuttle is mothballed next year."

Like NASA, even barrels of red-ink printed federal 'stimulus' dollars can find no few friends in Washington or Tallahassee. "All three of Florida's top space advocates in Washington — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, both of Orlando, and Democratic Rep. Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach — recently turned down Space Florida's request for $5 million in federal money to help build its complex, install fences, and connect water and electricity to the pad."

"Among the reasons for the rejections: Space Florida's controversial reputation. The agency has had to fend off accusations that it stole a client's ideas for a space-tourism project and gave them to a competitor. Critics in Tallahassee have also blasted it for what they describe as poor management and business decisions."

"The Governor's Office just completed an investigation of one of the agency's groundbreaking deals — for a space-tourism training program — after the Orlando Sentinel disclosed that a state employee who had worked on the contract resigned to go to work for the clinic that won it. That probe found that the whole endeavor had been tainted by apparent breaches of state ethics laws."
Recommended Read: HERE.

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