CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Nearly two years after space shuttle Atlantis blasted off for the last time, NASA on Thursday put out a “For Lease” notice for one of its shuttle launch pads in Florida.
In a notice posted on its procurement website, the U.S. space agency said it was looking for one or more companies to take over operations and maintenance of Launch Complex 39A.
The facility is one of two launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center built in the 1960s to support the Apollo moon program. Both were later modified for the space shuttles, which began flying in 1981.
NASA intends to refurbish Complex 39B for its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion deep-space capsule, designed to carry astronauts to destinations beyond the International Space Station, a $100 billion research complex that flies about 250 miles above Earth.
Pad 39A, however, is among the hundreds of shuttle-era facilities that NASA no longer needs.
“We’re on track for significant commercial operations here at the Cape,” Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana said last week at a National Space Club Florida meeting in Cape Canaveral.
NASA’s Florida spaceport has demolished or transferred to commercial users more than 150 shuttle facilities, reducing its footprint by 1 million square feet (93,000 square meters), Cabana said.
Among the companies that have expressed interest in the pad are privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which leases a launch pad at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for its Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX has a second launch site in California and is shopping for at least one more U.S. site to accommodate its burgeoning manifest.
NASA is looking to have a five-year or longer lease on the property by October 1.
Editing by Tom Brown and Stacey Joyce