The commercial space sector (aka. NewSpace) is one of the fastest-growing industries of the 21st century. In the past twenty years, what was once considered an ambitious venture or far-off prospect has become a rapidly-accelerating reality. Today, companies are conducting launches using their own rockets and spacecraft, often from their own facilities, to send everything from satellites and cargo to astronauts (commercial and professional) into space. The growing number of launch providers has also led to a dramatic increase in demand for launch-related services.
This includes retrieval operations designed to provide launch flexibility and safe retrieval. This is the purpose behind The Spaceport Company, a Virginia-based aerospace company dedicated to creating a global network of mobile, sea-based launch and landing site systems. On Monday, May 22nd, the company successfully tested its prototype platform by conducting the first-ever commercial rocket launches from U.S. water. This test demonstrated the potential for mobile sea platforms to ease congestion at on-shore launch facilities and expedite the delivery of payloads to orbit.
If you’ve got a new use for the mobile launcher platforms NASA used for the shuttle program, the agency is all ears.
NASA invited government and commercial entities to submit their ideas for the platforms, which used to ferry the space shuttles and the Apollo rockets from the Vehicle Assembly Building to their launch pads.
The ideal for NASA is to make them available for commercial launch activity. “Interested parties are requested to provide the following … estimated annual launch manifest, plans for retrofitting, storing, transporting, estimated schedule for acquiring use of the MLP(s), and the length of time the MLP(s) would be required for a particular activity,” the agency stated in a request for information.
Other options for the platforms could include modifying them for use in oil rigs, artificial reefs or even museum exhibits. Deconstruction is also being considered.
Each of the three platforms is two storeys tall, weigh 8.2 million pounds, with a platform of about 160 feet by 135 feet.