Editorial: Florida and Jacksonville have big opportunities for the new generation of space exploration
With a revived space program, illustrated by the first use of an American-made rocket to ferry astronauts in nearly a decade, there are great opportunities for Florida and Jacksonville.
On May 30, two American astronauts zoomed to the Space Station on the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket that has been used for unmanned payloads since 2010.
Private companies will be used for near-Earth orbits while NASA focuses on deep-space travel. NASA is collaborating with private businesses like Boeing and SpaceX.
But this is just the tip of the rocket on a series of space projects planned by NASA.
And with Cecil Airport qualified as one of America’s space ports, there are opportunities for business-friendly Jacksonville to take part.
NASA plans to nurture the work of the International Space Station as an economic driver.
New technologies will be developed to improve air transport. And scientific experiments will continue.
This will be conducted without a space race with the Soviets, NASA explained: “Rather, we will build upon the community of industrial, international, and academic partnerships forged for the space station. Commercial companies will play an increasing role in the space industry: launching rockets and satellites, transporting cargo and crew, building infrastructure in low-Earth orbit.”
Nevertheless, Americans would not be pleased to see China or Russia leapfrog us in space. It hasn’t been good for the American psyche to be paying the Russians $80 million a seat to ride the Soyuz rocket to the Space Station.
Though the Space Shuttle has been mothballed, the Falcon 9 rocket uses some of the same money-saving principles. The first stage can be used repeatedly as well as the Dragon spacecraft.
NASA plans to return to the moon as a necessary intermediate step in a trip to Mars.
A human landing on the moon’s South Pole is planned for 2024. But this won’t be a visit, NASA plans a permanent site there with an orbiting command module at the moon.
The practical and technological challenges for a three-year Mars mission will call for inventions. As NASA notes, “Can you take enough? Can you grow it or make it in space? Can you do your own repairs and maintenance?”
NASA’s Space Launch System will include a powerful, advanced launch vehicle capable of sending crews of four astronauts in the agency’s Orion spacecraft.
The rocket will be powerful and flexible enough to evolve.
Future space travel will include robotic adventures to Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
Closer to Earth, NASA will be developing quiet supersonic transport. For instance, the X-57 Maxwell aircraft will be the first all-electric X-plane. The goal of the X-57 is to achieve a 500-percent increase in high-speed cruise efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions and flight that is much quieter for people on the ground.
Activity at Cecil
Cecil Airport is the eighth licensed commercial spaceport in the U.S. The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is constructing the infrastructure for the spaceport and has already seen its first test flight of a commercial space vehicle.
“This is an industry in its infancy but one that will play an important role in the future of Cecil Airport and the city of Jacksonville,” JAA notes on its website.
There are many business opportunities at the former NAS-Cecil Navy base. Cecil Airport includes facilities for corporate aircraft, general aviation, air cargo and National Guard and Reserve aviation. One of its fourth runways is 12,500 feet in length, one of the longest in Florida.
Combined with Cecil Commerce Center, it’s a powerful economic driver for the region.
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority inherited 1.2 million square feet of building space from the Navy, which is all leased. JAA and its partners have built more than 500,000 square feet of space that also is fully leased.
More than 4,000 people work at Cecil Airport and in the adjoining Cecil Commerce Center.
Jacksonville, once the home of three Navy bases, still has an important Navy presence at Mayport and NAS-Jax. We can see exciting future opportunities at Cecil.