As the space shuttle program enters its final stage, NASA is offering aerospace companies the chance to use some of Florida's Kennedy Space Center facilities.
"Kennedy has been working for some time to enable commercial space activities at the center that are in line with NASA's mission," Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana said in a statement. "Partnering with the commercial space industry will help NASA meet its goals and help sustain facility assets to support our nation's space objectives."
Left unsaid in Monday's announcement: NASA's bid to draw private space companies to the area may also be designed to encourage area residents who depend on the space program for jobs. Unlike some of NASA's other facilities, the Kennedy Space Center is almost entirely designed to support the shuttle program.
"Community leaders are in a minor panic," said Roger Handberg, a space policy expert at the University of Central Florida.
NASA officials say they have received notice of some industry interest in the Center.
According to the statement, "The facilities that may become available are well-suited for entities operating or directly supporting government or commercial launches or space user services." NASA reserves the right to take back the facilities if it needs them for its own purposes.