More than a decade after the Federal Aviation Authority granted a space flight permit to Jacksonville Airport and Cecil Spaceport, the commercial airport unveils a traffic control center that is better able to handle a flight at horizontal launch in sub-orbit.
Dr. Norman Thagard’s new Mission Control Center is named in honor of the Jacksonville astronaut and Paxon School graduate who flew five space missions and was the first American astronaut to travel the space aboard a Russian spacecraft.
The control center includes a terminal for the management of space flights and a new 126-foot air traffic control tower for commercial flights.
Air traffic control specialist Tim Altman said going from the old 60-foot tower to the new one was like going from a Razr flip phone to a brand new iPhone.
“I’ve been working here for about 10 years, and when you make the transition you have to look and see everything around you, and you see everything in a new light,” he said. “It really improves everything. “
Thanks to its extensive capabilities, Cecil will be able to launch nanosatellites for research and commercial purposes, as well as human spaceflight. Spacecraft will take off horizontally like airplanes, as opposed to vertically like rockets.
“With the two launches that have just happened, this is a turning point in the space industry,” said Cecil Spaceport CEO Matt Bocchino, referring to the space flights of billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. “They’ve been talking about it for years and years; now it’s happening.
Cecil Airport Manager Kelly Dollarhide said Westside Airport is better positioned to compete in the increasingly fierce space flight industry.
“We have capabilities that some of the other spaceports don’t. As the [Brevard County] Shuttle landing facility – they have a runway. We have four, ”she said.
In the 11 years since Cecil obtained commercial space flight permits, there has been only one test launch, in 2019.
Alabama-based Aevum Inc. has been contracted to begin launching autonomous satellites from Cecil Spaceport as early as this year. Spatial perspective is scheduled to conduct test flights of its passenger spacecraft from the site. Another tenant, based in Atlanta Generation orbit, was originally scheduled to be launched in 2019.
Meanwhile, commercial air flights continue, with some 100,000 flight operations annually at Cecil. Tenants include aircraft maintenance company Flightstar and Florida State College at Jacksonville Flight School.
The Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard are working together on drug seizures at sea in Cecil’s hangars, with 61 drug seizures to date in 2021.