Addressing Real World Issues
Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes
Chapter 14: Economics of space: estimating the economic significance of a NASA testing facility
This chapter describes an economic impact project commissioned by the state of Ohio in the United States (US) to determine the feasibility of building a 9000 foot runway at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Plum Brook facility located on 6400 acres in Sandusky, Ohio. Constructed in 1941 the facility was originally designed as a munitions storage area. The current facility contains the world’s largest thermal vacuum chamber for ground testing large equipment in a simulated space environment. The chamber creates a vacuum and can be heated or cooled to simulate the effect of a deep space environment on full-size space vehicles, satellites or equipment. The facility also contains a hypersonic clean air wind-tunnel facility (the largest in the US) capable of performing tests up to seven times the speed of sound. The primary drawback of the facility is the lack of a runway large enough to accept large cargo planes. The equipment tested in the facility is often too fragile to transport by land. The equipment needs to be flown directly to the site, thus eliminating the usual damage cause by ground transportation. The chapter first provides an overview of the region and the political climate. The variety of methods and data used in estimating the impacts are then described. The impact results are then presented for the construction and operations of the facility. Possible impact scenarios and the logic used in their selection are discussed. Finally, we draw some conclusions and describe how the impact study has been used in the funding strategy for the region and NASA.
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