NASA seeks uses for 3 mobile launch platforms at KSC

9:56 AM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
Space Shuttle Atlantis waits on the launchpad ahead of its final launch.
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(Florida Today) -- Commercial rocket launcher? Museum exhibit? Artificial reef?

All are potential uses for three historic mobile launch platforms from which NASA's moon rockets and space shuttles leapt toward space, but which now sit idle.

If those don't pan out, the two-story, 8.2 million-pound structures could be bound for the scrap heap.

"NASA does not currently have a need for the Mobile Launch Platforms to support current and future mission activities," said Tracy Young, a Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman. "Because of this factor, we are seeking information and concepts for traditional and non-traditional potential use of the structures as well as potential disposal options."

The "MLPs" are the latest shuttle program remnants NASA is trying to repurpose or get rid of, since it can't afford to store and maintain them indefinitely.

The shuttles themselves are now on display around the country, including Atlantis at the KSC Visitor Complex.

One of Kennedy's two launch pads, the shuttle runway and orbiter hangars are among other former shuttle facilities seeking new tenants.

The steel, battleship gray platforms served as bases atop which Saturn rockets and later shuttles were stacked and bolted for rollout atop massive crawler-transporters and placement on launch pad pedestals.

They provided power and umbilical connections to the rockets and holes for flame and exhaust to flow through.

Each hollow structure, big enough to hold a baseball infield, features "an elaborate maze of pathways, compartments, plumbing, and electrical cabling," according to a NASA description.

Now the mothballed platforms are parked in the Vehicle Assembly Building, in a nearby lot and at launch pad 39A.

NASA hopes private companies will claim one or more of them as bases for commercial rocket launches, either borrowing the equipment as needed or buying it at auction.Potential costs were not disclosed.

Those proposals will get the greatest consideration, but the agency also is collecting information from companies that could demolish MLPs for recycling and disposal, like the shuttle service towers that were dismantled at pad 39B.

A third option invites "alternative and innovative solutions for divestment," uses that might not be space-related but could benefit the public.

Examples: a museum exhibit, artificial reef or oil rig structure.

NASA says it has no money available for any of the options, but wants to better understand their potential costs and risks. Proposals are due by Sept. 6.

Any modification or deconstruction plan will require special approval, because the three mobile launch platforms are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for their service to the shuttle program.

NASA is building a new base and tower for its next heavy-lift exploration rocket, the Space Launch System. It is modifying a mobile launcher originally designed for the canceled Ares I rocket.

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