NASA will turn over one of its mothballed space-shuttle launch pads to privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which intends to set up a second site in Florida for its Falcon rockets, officials said on Friday.
NASA's decision to lease out Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to SpaceX followed a challenge by rival bidder Blue Origin, a startup rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office dismissed Blue Origin's protest over NASA's bidding process.
Privately owned Blue Origin had proposed a multi-user concept for the launch pad. In its ruling, the GAO said NASA was free to consider both exclusive and multi-use operational concepts for the launch pad.
GAO's review of the protest delayed NASA's plan to turn over the launch pad by October 1, 2013. NASA has said it spends around $100,000 a month to maintain the site.
The terms of the lease agreement with SpaceX were not immediately disclosed. "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," the agency said in a statement.
SpaceX already is flying its Falcon rockets from a leased launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just south of the NASA spaceport.
It also has a launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and is considering developing a commercial complex in Texas. The company, founded and run by technologyentrepreneur Elon Musk, has a backlog of more than 50 missions for NASA and commercial customers.
(Editing by Kevin Gray; Editing by David Brunnstrom)