Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Philly Needs a Space Port

When I looked at Congressman Chaka Fattah's 2011 FEC reports there was something interesting in the 2nd quarter report.  There were donations from a number of big names in the private space flight industry.  The general counsel of Science Center, the VP of the United Space Alliance, Elon Musk who is the CEO of Space X, Gwynne Shotwell who is the president of Space X, and an executive from Space Exploration Technologies. 

Fattah is on the House Appropriations Committee and one of his subcommittees, Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, where he serves as the Ranking Member, oversees NASA and the National Science Foundation. 

Today, Fattah tweeted a link to a Yahoo article, "NASA clears SpaceX for cargo run to space station," by Irene Klotz (Reuters 4/16). 

All this leads me to wonder, why doesn't Philly have a space port?  Granted our occasional severe winter weather could be a drawback.  However, we have some refinery space available now to handle whatever fuel these space planes use (I have no idea what kind of fuel this would be or how it is stored -- I'm just making stuff up here).   Several areas of the city could serve as our version of Mos Eisley, so we're covered there as well.

Space ports might need engineers but we have several engineering schools in the area.  Penn State has the only aerospace engineering program in the state but Rutgers has a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering degree.  Rowan, Drexel, Univ of Delaware, and U Penn all have engineering schools. That should be enough to supply all the engineers a space port would need.  I imagine all those schools would add classes or areas of emphasis suited to the industry's needs. 

Manta, which keeps track of small businesses, lists 133 aerospace businesses in Pennsylvania.  That seems like enough to form a noticeable cluster.  Finding a place to put a rocket gantry might be tricky but wouldn't it be fantastic to see something like that on the edge's of the city skyline.  Yes, given the safety concerns that probably isn't feasible -- it would have to be further out away from high population areas. 

All the same, I ask again, why doesn't Philly have a space port?  If Rep. Fattah is on such friendly terms with people like Elon Musk maybe he can invite them out and have local engineering schools and relevant small businesses, along with government officials, talk with them and see what they can cook up.  Rocket scientists are smart people.  They should be able to come up with something.

Just a thought.

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