NASA said on Monday that it has signed an agreement with Florida’s aerospace economic-development agency, Space Florida, to let it use several major facilities at the Kennedy Space Center and that Boeing would use one large facility to build its reusable space capsule.
Space Florida is leasing one large hangar, the Orbiter Processing Facility-3, to the Boeing Company to make and test its Crew Space Transportation spacecraft. NASA said that project this would create as many as 500 jobs in the region by 2015 – welcome news for an area hard hit by the closure this year of the space shuttle program.
"The next era of space exploration won't wait, and so we can't wait for Congress to do its job and give our space program the funding it needs," President Obama said in a statement released by NASA.
“That's why my administration will be pressing forward, in partnership with Space Florida and the private sector, to create jobs and make sure America continues to lead the world in exploration and discovery.”
The Obama administration and Congress have been fighting over the future of NASA. Many in Congress wanted to continue President George W. Bush's plans to send astronauts to the moon. Obama opted to reshape that program into a longer-term goal to explore asteroids and Mars.
"Neither NASA nor the Space Coast can afford to stand still. We must be aggressive in pursuing this next generation of space exploration -- and the jobs and innovation that will accompany it," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
Some 7,000 jobs were lost along Florida’s so-called Space Coast regionaround the Kennedy Space Center when the space shuttle program ended.
CST-100 is one of several new spacecraft being developed for use by American astronauts. In contrast to Lockheed Martin's Orion, CST-100 is designed for low-Earth orbit. Orion will include features that allow it to travel farther into space.
CST-100 will have a crew and service modules for transporting up to seven people, and it is expected to make its first test flights in 2015.
"This positions our state well for future growth and a leadership role in NASA's next-generation human space exploration initiatives," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida. "It is also a key factor in ensuring Florida's space-related economy continues to thrive."