Study offers $2.1 billion plan to make room for SpaceX and other rocket company fleets at Port Canaveral – Orlando Sentinel

More Space Coast rocket launches mean an overcrowded fleet of support ships is already pushing the boundaries of Port Canaveral. That’s why the state commissioned a study that suggests a $2.1 billion solution to give companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin special places to dock.

Space Florida, the state’s aerospace agency, on Thursday released the Florida Spaceport System Maritime Intermodal Transportation Study, which has been in the works for more than a year.

“It was very important to us to ensure we had input from all stakeholders throughout the process,” said Rob Long, president and CEO of Space Florida.

“It’s a pretty extensive investigation,” he said. “It allows us to understand the scale of the challenge ahead to meet the demands we have seen in the industry.”

Players include NASA, the Space Force, Port Canaveral, commercial launch companies, environmental groups and others, who have listed the pros and cons of six potential locations to expand the port.

The end result focuses on the preferred long-term expansion of using Air Force-owned land and relying less on Canaveral Port Authority properties.

That came after three of six potential sites were taken off the board last year, including along the Atlantic coast of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, sites along the Banana River that would require the use of the Canaveral Locks, and the easternmost Port Canaveral retaining basin used. in support of the Navy’s nuclear submarines in port.

Proposals remained that focused on the center and western turning basins on the north side of the harbor, with the final preferred proposal aimed at carving out an area of ​​land that is currently the site of several military buildings just outside the Space Force entrance station.

Buildings would have to be moved and State Road 401, which currently runs directly to the Space Force station, would have to be moved. It would be shifted north, creating space for a newly dredged northern turning basin with sufficient dock space for the support fleets of commercial space companies.

The project will be completed in seven phases over 30 years, adding initial dock space adjacent to existing docks used by the Air Force and Army, and one for ULA’s Rocketship transportation. In the meantime, Port Canaveral would continue to juggle aerospace industry ships with incoming freighters between its northern cargo terminals.

There could be more than 100 launches this year, mostly from SpaceX, with the majority carrying out recovery work on boosters, fairings and first-stage capsules.

“We’re running out of space,” Capt. John Murray, CEO of Port Canaveral, said in an interview at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami Beach in early April. “Last week we received two boosters for SpaceX. They had ships at berth five, berth six and berth eight. Three berths in the port have been taken out of use.”

He said the juggling act would have been in trouble if Blue Origin’s New Glenn had also come to market.

“We should have told them to leave because there was no room for them,” Murray said.

Blue Origin is just one of the new potential players. The Space Florida report notes that the Space Coast could conduct nearly 200 launch and recovery missions annually by 2028, a number expected to increase to more than 1,250 missions over the next five decades.

Space Florida’s survey also spoke with ULA, Relativity Space, The Spaceport Company, Space Perspective, ABL Space Systems, Vaya Space, Phantom Space, Stoke Space and Astra in gathering industry needs for marine recovery operations.

Space Florida projects SpaceX will be joined by five more rocket launch companies over the next three years.

With an average of four oceangoing vessels supporting each of these missions, the port is expected to provide nearly 2 miles of dedicated berths.

That’s 3,000 meters of space needed for mooring. The port currently has just over 4,000 feet of space between all of its cargo and cruise terminals, but none on the south side of the port is available to the aerospace industry.

For now, SpaceX is using cargo terminals when there is room on the north side to unload its boosters and fairings using cranes operated by the port. Blue Origin will use the area with its massive crane when the New Glenn missions begin, which could happen as soon as September.

“One of the things we’re trying to convince the space guys is that you’re all going to have conflict,” Murray said. ‘They say, ‘Oh no. We work well together.’ … and I say, ‘It won’t go as smoothly as you think.’”

And Port Canaveral gets only a small portion of its overall revenue from companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, Murray said.

“We’re not going to give up all of Port Canaveral for the space industry,” he said. “Just for reference, the combined space operations we have today, with both Blue Origin and SpaceX as tenants, represent less than 1% of our total revenue.”

According to the report, the average cost SpaceX pays for a recovery operation is $61,000. With a price tag of $2.1 billion for the proposed expansion, that price would rise to nearly $150,000.

Space Florida’s report suggested a variety of methods to finance the project, including federal and state grants combined with loans that could reduce these costs, Long said.

“Florida’s financial toolkit is so diverse that there are a number of different options that we could potentially take advantage of,” he said. “That’s really what this next phase of effort will be: sitting down and really understanding it and making agreements … to make this happen.”

He said he hopes to formulate a plan among landowners, namely the Department of the Air Force, in the coming year.

“From a Space Florida perspective, our goal is to act as an intermediary and bring all those parties together and come up with a solution that is hopefully a win-win for everyone,” he said. “In the long term, it’s about ensuring we can meet industry demands well into the future.”