Kennedy Space Center Continues 'Pushing the Boundaries'
On Feb. 21, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and several members of his leadership team provided an update on current and future activities at the Florida spaceport. Their reports were part of the annual Community Leaders Briefing at the Kurt H. Debus Conference Center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex attended by local, state and U.S. government representatives, along with individuals from business and industry.
Cabana explained that the space center has a great deal of work going on in support of current and future space program projects.
"NASA has three top priorities, SLS (Space Launch System), the International Space Station -- and supporting it we need to have a commercial crew capability -- and the James Webb Space Telescope," he said.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope. A successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, it is projected to launch in 2018.
"At the Kennedy Space Center, our Ground Systems Development, Commercial Crew, ISS and Launch Services programs are an integral part of every one of those three top priorities," Cabana said.
Overviews with a theme of "Pushing the Boundaries" focusing on center operations were presented by leaders of four key organizations at Kennedy. Josie Burnett, director of the International Space Station Processing and Ground Research project office, spoke of how Kennedy is supporting the orbiting laboratory.
"The space station is an extraordinary accomplishment and engineering achievement," she said. "We are doing research today and every day making some incredible scientific discoveries."
Space station support currently managed by Burnett's team at Kennedy includes the Biological Research In Canisters project, which is a compact storage system for housing experiments. She also noted that a group of engineers at Kennedy is developing a plant habitat with a large growth chamber to learn the effects of long-duration microgravity exposure to plants in space.
As manager of the Commercial Crew Program’s Partner Integration Office, Scott Thurston's organization is working with industry to provide transportation to the space station and low-Earth orbit.
"Our ultimate goal is to purchase the ability to fly our astronauts to the International Space Station," he said.
The current Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreements are designed to encourage the development of transportation subsystems and represent the next phase in which industry partners develop crew transportation capabilities as fully integrated systems. On Jan. 22, the Certification Products Contracts began an effort to establish standards across all aspects of commercial crew systems, including design of the spacecraft, launch vehicles, and ground and mission operations.
Cabana noted that Kennedy is making great strides in transitioning from a historically government-only launch facility to an affordable, sustainable, multiuser spaceport for both government and commercial customers. Much of that work is being supported by the Ground Systems Development and Operations, or GSDO, organization.
Ruth Gardner, Exploration Systems manager in GSDO, explained how Kennedy facilities are being updated to accommodate a wide variety of spacecraft.
"Our program has two main goals here at the Kennedy Space Center," she said.
First, these objectives include the people in Kennedy's GSDO program establishing a multiuser spaceport for launching the next generation of rockets and spacecraft.
GSDO's efforts also are preparing facilities and infrastructure to support NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket. SLS will launch cargo and the Orion capsule designed to take crews of up to four astronauts on missions to deep space, including to asteroids and, eventually, to Mars.
Darren Bedell, System Integration manager in Kennedy's Launch Services Program (LSP), reported that LSP has accomplished two launches within the last three weeks.
An Atlas V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan. 30 with NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, or TDRS-K, satellite, providing an upgrade to the agency's constellation of space-based communication satellites.
On Feb. 11, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Kennedy's Launch Services Program also is responsible for missions that begin from the West Coast. Landsat will continue NASA's ongoing 40-year effort to obtain valuable data and imagery to be utilized in agriculture, education, business, science and government.
Bedell explained the role of the Launch Services Program as an agent matching up those needing transportation to space with the appropriate rocket.
"We are a broker buying launch services to ensure success for our customers," he said.
In summing up the reports, Cabana said that in a period of budget uncertainty he has challenged the Kennedy workforce to become more efficient and cost effective.
"To become the spaceport of the future, we've got to integrate commercial operations," he said. "We have to figure out how to be more efficient, we have to be more commercial-friendly, and we have to deliver in a timely manner."
Bob Granath NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center