NASA signs lease agreement for Kennedy Space Center

NASA said on Monday that it has signed an agreement with Florida's aerospace economic development agency, Space Florida, to let it use several major facilities at the Kennedy Space Center, and that Boeing would use one large facility to build its reusable space capsule.

Space Florida is leasing one big hangar, the Orbiter Processing Facility-3, to the Boeing Company to make and test its Crew Space Transportation spacecraft. NASA said this would create as many as 500 jobs in the region by 2015 - welcome news for an area hard hit by the closure this year of the space shuttle program.

"The next era of space exploration won't wait, and so we can't wait for Congress to do its job and give our space program the funding it needs," President Obama said in a statement released by NASA.

"That's why my administration will be pressing forward, in partnership with Space Florida and the private sector, to create jobs and make sure America continues to lead the world in exploration and discovery."

Boeing's capsule would hold seven astronauts and would succeed the Orion spacecraft, a smaller capsule that carries four to six astronauts to and from the International Space Station and on other missions.

"This positions our state well for future growth and a leadership role in NASA's next-generation human space exploration initiatives," said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida. "It is also a key factor in ensuring Florida's space-related economy continues to thrive."

The Obama administration and Congress have been fighting over the future of NASA. Many in Congress wanted to continue former President George W. Bush's plans to send astronauts to the moon. Obama opted to divert that program into a longer-term goal to explore asteroids and Mars.

"Neither NASA nor the Space Coast can afford to stand still. We must be aggressive in pursuing this next generation of space exploration -- and the jobs and innovation that will accompany it," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.