CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., to begin negotiations on a lease to use and operate Launch Complex (LC) 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Since the late 1960s, Kennedy’s launch pads 39 A and B have served as the starting point for America’s most significant human spaceflight endeavors — Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and all 135 space shuttle missions. LC-39A is the pad where Apollo 11 lifted off from on the first manned moon landing in 1969, as well as launching the first space shuttle mission in 1981 and the last in 2011.
According to NASA, permitting use and operation of this valuable national asset by a private-sector, commercial space partner will ensure its continued viability and allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities. NASA’s Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rocket will launch from LC-39B.
NASA made the selection decision Thursday after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed against the Agency by Blue Origin, L.L.C. on September 13. In its protest, Blue Origin raised concerns about the competitive process NASA was using to try to secure a potential commercial partner or partners to lease and use LC-39A. Blue Origin had argued the language in the Announcement for Proposals (AFP) favored one proposed use of LC-39A over others. The GAO disagreed.
While the GAO protest was underway, NASA was prohibited from selecting a commercial partner for LC-39A from among the proposals submitted in response to the agency’s AFP that had been issued on May 23. However, while the GAO considered the protest, NASA continued evaluating the proposals in order to be prepared to make a selection when permitted to do so. After the GAO rendered its decision Thursday in NASA’s favor, the agency completed its evaluation and selection process.
NASA will begin working with SpaceX to negotiate the terms of its lease for LC-39A. During those ongoing negotiations, NASA will not be able to discuss details of the pending lease agreement.