New Air Traffic Control Tower and Mission Control Center Opens at Cecil Air and Spaceport

A new 126-foot air traffic control tower and mission control center officially opened for operations in a ceremony at Cecil Air and Spaceport today. The mission control center was dedicated to astronaut Dr. Norman Thagard, a graduate of Paxon High School in Jacksonville.

The tower was built to accommodate immense growth at Cecil Airport. All existing buildings at the airport are leased, and in December, Boeing announced construction of a 362,000 square foot hangar on the east side of the Airport’s runway. The mission control center is intended to support horizontal launch operations at the Spaceport.  

“For more than 20 years the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) and our partners worked to build Cecil into one of the preeminent general aviation and aerospace facilities in the country,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) CEO Mark VanLoh said. “Today is a historic day as we look towards Cecil’s future.”  

The air traffic control tower is approximately 7,500 square feet while the mission control center is 1,831 square feet. Design and construction were made possible with grants from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Space Florida. RS&H and Pond designed both facilities. 

“Today’s dedication of a new air traffic control tower and spaceport mission control is the next step in attracting aerospace and aviation companies to Florida,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “As the state’s aerospace ecosystem continues to grow, so too does Florida’s Spaceport System. Cecil Spaceport offers a unique capability to meet market demands of increasing commercial and government aerospace missions, and we look forward to the future activity in Jacksonville.”  

Cecil Spaceport’s mission control center will be named after Dr. Thagard, the first American astronaut to ride to space on a Russian spacecraft. The Dr. Norman Thagard Mission Control Center will be utilized by operators conducting space operations at Cecil.

“I have always been proud to tell people Jacksonville is my hometown. The things that enabled me to have a wonderful professional and family life were imbued in me by this community,” Dr. Thagard said. “Given my background as a Marine Corps fighter pilot and astronaut, it is with pride that I see Jacksonville place itself in a position to be a full-fledged and contributing member of the aerospace community. Cecil Spaceport will allow Jacksonville to play an important part in the space-age.”

For photos of the new air traffic control tower, please click here.


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