Spaceport Florida Authority

A short history...

Remember Spaceport Florida? In 1989, way before the current nationwide crop of commercial spaceports was conceived, the State of Florida had the foresight to establish the nation's first space transportation authority. Modeled after airport and seaport authorities, the "Spaceport Florida Authority" was broadly empowered to develop, finance, and operate spaceports statewide. After a survey of potential sites around the state, the underutilized launch facilities at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station were identified as the initial operational location for Spaceport Florida.

In the early 1990s, the emerging commercial space transportation industry was expected to evolve along the same path as commercial aviation, with airport-like operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Unfortunately, during these early days of commercial spaceflight, this evolution was incompatible with the high security, military- and NASA-oriented culture at the spaceport. Although commercial programs were accommodated, the Cape earned a reputation for being a difficult place to operate, so much so that even new military launch programs avoided it.

The Spaceport Florida Authority had some significant successes during the 1990s, developing hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure for commercial, military and NASA programs. In accordance with its charter from the state, the Authority also developed several successful space education and economic development programs.

Unfortunately, the transportation authority approach was not fully embraced by the Air Force and NASA as a viable alternative to operating the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Despite the success of the transportation-authority model in the evolution of the aviation industry (including at former military installations like McCoy Air Force Base--now Orlando International Airport), the authority approach was ahead of its time at the Cape.

Around 2000, after the departure of its first executive director, Ed O'Connor, the Spaceport Florida Authority was renamed the "Florida Space Authority" (FSA) and its priorities changed from spaceport operations to statewide space-related economic development. Two spinoff enitities were also formed at that time: the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI) and the Florida Aerospace Finance Corp. (FAFC).

FSRI and FAFC were relatively successful, but after FSA shifted its focus away from being a transportation authority, the agency was ill-equipped to make strong progress on its economic development priorities. A state commission in 2006 recommended dissolving FSA, FSRI and FAFC and creating a new agency called Space Florida.

In response to the growing number of competing spaceports under development nationwide, Space Florida, NASA and the Air Force have made substantial progress toward implementing some of the spaceport operations and governance concepts originally put forward over two decades ago.

(March 2008)

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