Before any space endeavor can be successful, there must first be a foundation on which to build a space program. This foundation is really the hub of space operations. Fuel needs to be stored and transferred safely, personnel need to be trained on spacecraft ground-handling techniques, a reinforced concrete runway is needed to handle the heavy loads of fully fueled spacecraft, etc.
Certain additions will also have to be made to the space complex as well, such as a payload integration facility, a facility for support aircraft, etc. Therefore, there must be land available around the area to build.
Located north of Las Cruces, NM, Spaceport America is ideally suited for launching spacecraft. It is near a small city, but far enough away in case anything decides to blow up. It has enough space around it to accomodate the buildings we will need to erect. It even has more VFR days than a lot of other places. Everything needed is there to get the whole operation started.
Once everything is completed, and we have several years of launch experience, the Spaceport will become as routine as any major airport.
Eventually, this place will become the gateway to the planets and the stars.
Continued below the hyperspace jump...
Before the Spaceport can reach its full potential, a few ideas need to be considered. The following is a list of additions that could be made to Spaceport America so that it can become the premiere place to launch spacecraft.
Facilities that currently exist and that can be used with little or no modification.
- 3.66 km (12,000 ft) Runway: The reinforced concrete runway is 42 inches deep and capable of handling a fully fueled 747.
- Air Traffic Control: A standard air traffic control tower. Used for ground traffic and for approach and departure control.
- Mission Control Center: This is patterned after the old mission control center used by NASA.
Payload Integration Facility
This facility is equivalent to the Vehicle Assembly Building that NASA used to have.
- Payload Assembly and Testing: The shuttle payload is assembled, tested, and prepared to be loaded aboard the shuttle. A "clean room" will be provided, along with test equipment, etc.
- Payload/Spacecraft Integration: The assembled payload is loaded into the shuttle. An overhead mobile crane will lift the assembled payload and position it over the shuttle's cargo bay. The crane then lowers the payload into the cargo bay where it is secured for spaceflight.
Shuttle Maintenance Facility
We need a place to keep the spacecraft safe.
- Spacecraft Hangers: Storage and maintenance area for the shuttles.
- Maintenance Tools: The specific spacecraft tools necessary to maintain and repair the shuttle fleet.
- Maintenance Equipment: The specific equipment necessary to maintain and repair the shuttle fleet.
- Shuttle Parts: The parts necessary to maintain and repair the shuttle fleet.
Astronaut Training Facility
All flyers know that training is the only constant in the profession.
- Flight Simulators: The shuttle and other spacecraft simulators are used to train astronauts in as realistic an environment as possible.
- Classrooms: Astronaut crews receive their continuous professional development training.
- Ready Rooms: Astronauts prepare for their missions (similar to Ready Rooms aboard aircraft carriers). Preflights and post-flights occur in these rooms, along with weather briefings, payload information, etc.
Astronaut Food Preparation Facility
Food should be extremely easy for the astronauts to prepare in space, even if it is more of a hassle to prepare on earth. As everyone already knows, morale increase as the quality of food increases.
- Great chefs create quality (read: nutritious) meals.
- Meals are flash frozen (or some better way to preserve the meals. Food scientists will determine the best way to do this).
- Meals are delivered to space.
- Meals are reheated (Microwaved? Warm water? Conventional oven? Food scientists to the rescue again!). I envision the same type of system as shown in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where we see Commander Bowman taking out several heated food items and placing them onto a serving tray.
If a shuttle is forced to land at another airport, or a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission needs to take place, we have the aircraft for it.
- (1) C-17 Globemaster III: Used to transport fuel to a shuttle that has landed at another airport. The cargo will include a portable Liquid Hydrogen refueling tank along with the infrastructure that connects the fuel tank to the spacecraft, and a standard airport ground vehicle. The shuttle is refueled and then self-ferries back to the Spaceport. If passengers were onboard the shuttle, they would be flown in the passenger section of the C-17 back to the Spaceport.
- (3) H-3C Sea Kings: Used for SAR operations in the event of a shuttle crash landing, or other such incidents.
Support Aircraft Facility
We need a place to keep the support aircraft safe.
- Aircraft Hanger: Storage and maintenance facility for the support aircraft.
- Maintenance Tools: The specific aircraft tools necessary to maintain and repair the support aircraft.
- Maintenance Equipment: The specific equipment necessary to maintain and repair support aircraft.
- Aircraft Parts: The parts necessary to maintain and repair support aircraft.
Propellant Storage Facility
Fuel is what makes everything happen.
- Liquid Hydrogen: Rocket fuel.
- Liquid Oxygen: Rocket oxidizer. Also for breathable air.
- Liquid Helium: Used primarily to push fuel out of fuel tanks.
- Liquid Nitrogen: Used for sea-level pressure atmosphere.
- Jet Fuel: Used by the support aircraft.
Total costs are difficult to ascertain, however I believe that around $2B USD is a reasonable estimate.
In addition, these suggestions may very well be incomplete; the only way to truly know what is needed is to do a study. Of course, that would take a lot of money.
Another way to truly know what is needed is to actually do it. But, of course, that would take a lot more money.
Cross-posted at NMSTARG.