Tim Furniss/LONDON

NASA and the US Air Force have awarded a joint contract to Space Gateway Support (SGS) of Virginia, to provide base operations from 1 October at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The Joint Base Operations Support Contract (JBOSC), which has a potential value of $2.2 billion over 10 years, will assist NASA and the USAF to "-cut costs, re-invest savings and consolidate base functions to enable the joint launch centre to remain a competitive player in commercial launcher market operations", says NASA.

SGS - a joint venture of ICF Kaiser Defense Programs, Northrop Grumman Technical Services and Wackenhut Services - has ousted the KSC's base operations contractor, EG&G, and the USAF's Canaveral 45th Space Wing's operations contractor at Johnson Controls. The companies failed in their joint venture bid for the JBOSC work.

SGS will serve commercial customers such as Boeing, Lockheed, Orbital Sciences, Spacehab's Astrotech and the Spaceport Florida Authority. Other primary JBOSC customers are government contractors for NASA and the air force for flight operations, payload ground operations, life sciences, expendable vehicles, launch operations and support, and elements of the US Navy and the Department of the Interior.

The KSC and Cape Canaveral are under threat from other international launch centres keen to attract new government and commercial ventures.

A critical decision is due soon on where an operational Lockheed Martin X-33 VentureStar fleet will be processed, launched and landed, with Florida being only one contender. Other bids have come from rivals in California, New Mexico and Virginia. Kistler Aerospace has selected Woomera, South Australia, as its operations base for the K-1 re-usable satellite launcher, a move that illustrates the threat to the Cape area.

The JBOSC is an "unprecedented display of co-operation", says NASA. "The management approach for this contract is significantly improved over what we currently do," says Roy Bridges, former Shuttle pilot and director of NASA's KSC.

Bridges says that potential savings could reach $900 million, but will not comment on how many of the 2,900 affected KSC workers would lose their jobs because of the consolidation. Previous estimates of 20-30% were "very high", he says.

Source: Flight International