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Cecil opens new air traffic control tower and mission control center

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority's new 126-foot air traffic control tower and Dr. Norman Thagard Mission Control Center.
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority's new 126-foot air traffic control tower and Dr. Norman Thagard Mission Control Center. (Jacksonville Airport Authority photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new 126-foot air traffic control tower and mission control center officially opened Tuesday at Cecil Air and Space Port. The mission control center was dedicated to astronaut Dr. Norman Thagard, a graduate of Paxon High School in Jacksonville.

The tower was built to accommodate growth at Cecil Airport. All existing buildings at the airport are leased and Boeing announced in December it would build a 362,000 square foot hangar on the east side of the airport’s runway.

The mission control center is intended to support horizontal launch operations at the spaceport.

“For more than 20 years the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and our partners worked to build Cecil into one of the preeminent general aviation and aerospace facilities in the country,” JAA CEO Mark VanLoh said in a statement “Today is a historic day as we look towards Cecil’s future.”

Dr. Norm Thagard, center, a graduate of Paxon High School and the first American astronaut to ride to space on a Russian spacecraft, joins city and aviation officials in a grand opening ceremony. (Jacksonville Airport Authority photo)

The air traffic control tower is approximately 7,500 square feet while the mission control center is 1,831 square feet. Design and construction were made possible with grants from the Florida Department of Transportation and Space Florida. RS&H and Pond designed both facilities.

“Today’s dedication of a new air traffic control tower and spaceport mission control is the next step in attracting aerospace and aviation companies to Florida,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “As the state’s aerospace ecosystem continues to grow, so too does Florida’s Spaceport System. Cecil Spaceport offers a unique capability to meet market demands of increasing commercial and government aerospace missions, and we look forward to the future activity in Jacksonville.”

Cecil Spaceport’s mission control center is named after Thagard, the first American astronaut to ride to space on a Russian spacecraft. The Dr. Norman Thagard Mission Control Center will be utilized by operators conducting space operations at Cecil.

“I am very excited to see how the future of the commercial space industry develops and am encouraged by the innovation at Cecil Spaceport to prepare for that future,” Thagard said.