Space Florida Seeks Another $5 Million for SpaceX Pad Upgrades

Pad 39A Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Pad 39A Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Well, this is interesting. Space Florida is seeking $5 million from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to help SpaceX pay for upgrades to Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The move will be discussed during an online-only board meeting next Wednesday.

According to meeting documents, “project match funding” from FDOT would be used for “infrastructure improvements by SpaceX.”

The move would authorize Space Florida to enter into an agreement with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company.

Specifically, the meeting agenda says the $5 million is needed to help fund with Phase 2 of improvements to Pad 39A. It’s not clear exactly what these upgrades entail.

The timing of this move is interesting. It’s being done at a special meeting, which means the matter came up after — or wasn’t ready to be dealt with in time for —  the last board meeting held only three weeks ago on Sept. 28.  Nor does it seem the matter can wait until the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 29.

The apparent urgency of the request might well be related to the destruction of a Falcon 9 on Pad 40 last month. The launch complex was seriously damaged by the fire and explosion. It will be out of commission for an unknown number of months.

SpaceX officials say they could use Pad 39A as early as November to launch Falcon 9 rockets while the other launch complex is being repaired. The launcher’s return to flight depends upon an ongoing investigation into why a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded while it was being fueled on Sept. 1.

SpaceX’s is leasing Pad 39A from NASA and has renovated to handle Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. The Falcon 9 launches will include Crew Dragon flights to the International Space Station.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    Whoever gets the opportunity to get on board SpaceX is taking it.

  • Terry Stetler

    Match funding, meaning a $10m total.

    Add methane GSE?

    A change related to evolving CCtCap reqs?

    Some bureaucrats brother in-law needs a gig?

  • Saturn13

    I thought that NASA was paying for upgrades through the CC contracts. Not Space Fl.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    I guess someone is going to have to explain to the Florida tax payers how this extra 5 million helps with their transportation needs. Perhaps the construction at the pad is running over budget, but SpaceX already has the pad leased for 20 years. Why would Space Florida need extra involvement ? Space Florida should only be concerned about bring new business to the state. This 5 million doesn’t accomplish that.

  • badcompanyman

    Every company will take advantage of any government freebies. Problem is each state, city, county adds its own and there is race to compete. I’m glad it will help spaceflight and not some billionaire’s sports stadium (in which case government would be spending 100 times as much).

  • JamesG

    If that $5M keeps more launches and for longer going out of CCAFS instead of TX it does.

  • JamesG

    Its Floriduh. All of the above.

  • Douglas Messier

    I don’t know. My guess is that SpaceX needs to speed up some work to get the pad fully operational with the other launch complex down. Yes, they said it would be operational in November, but the plan was to fly Falcon Heavy. Maybe they need upgrades for Falcon 9.

    I don’t know if this is a new request, or something Space Florida agreed at an earlier time that’s being moved up. It does kind of smack a bit of, hey, help bail us out of a bind we’re in because we blew up our launch complex last month. Is that a good reason to give them $5 million?

    Florida is very generous with subsidies and various financial breaks to lure and keep businesses there. It’s one way to do. And it does bring a lot of high paying jobs to Florida. But, at what point do you say enough is enough?

    The LA Times did a story a while back looking at all the support Musk’s companies get from various governments. He dismissed that as saying they’re nice but not needed to succeed. Of course, that would be more credible if SolarCity and Tesla were making money. At some point, you wonder what would happen if governments said, OK, you don’t need this assistance. You don’t have it anymore. Good luck.

  • Cincy

    Another triumph for “private sector” spaceflight.

  • publiusr

    It’s infrastructure guys–that’s a valid cost and Musk deserves it.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Doug, you may be correct that the phase 1 requirement is for the pad to support the F9H and phase 2 to add infrastructure to support the F9.

    SpaceX has loaned Tesla Motors far more than $5mil from low interest loans SpaceX received from the The Government.

    If SpaceX can afford to have a Mars program, they should also have a few dollars put away for a rainy day, metallic rain that is.

    Space Florida doesn’t need to “lure” SpaceX, they’re already there. When I worked with SF, they were looking to get lots of smaller companies to locate to the area such as the one I was working for.