Florida Governor Tours Orion Facilities
Florida Gov. Rick Scott got a firsthand look Oct. 18 at the facilities NASA's Kennedy Space Center will use to assemble and process the Orion spacecraft for launch on deep space missions.
"This is the future," Scott said. "We always have to look at all the changes and say, 'Look, we have a great opportunity.' We're going to continue to make things happen here."
The governor, along with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and state Cabinet officers Jeff Atwater, chief financial officer, and Adam Putnam, Agriculture commissioner, toured the Operations and Checkout Building and visited the Vehicle Assembly Building as well.
Florida funded part of the refurbishment of the high bay at the Operations and Checkout Building so the Orion spacecraft can be assembled there. Scott got a close-up look at an Orion test article used for a launch abort system test in New Mexico in 2010.
A test flight without astronauts is scheduled for 2017, with the Orion flying on the first Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, or SLS. A flight with astronauts would follow in 2021on the SLS.
With those complete, the stage would be set to dispatch crews into deep space to destinations such as an asteroid, the moon and eventually Mars.
"I think we have a clear path forward," said Robert Cabana, Kennedy Center's director, pointing out some of the modifications that recently have taken place at some of the center's better-known facilities, including Launch Pad 39B and the rest of the Operations and Checkout Building.
The building hosted final processing of the Apollo modules during the moon program of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Now refurbished, the high bay is being set up for Orion. Some fixtures already are in place for handling the capsule-shaped spacecraft.
Exploration Park, a research area off Space Commerce Way, is in the early stages of construction, Cabana told Scott, showing him maps and drawings of what the science-focused facilities are expected to look like when completed. Cabana also noted that Kennedy has seen two new programs get under way, too, Commercial Crew Program and the 21st Century Ground Systems Program.
Prior to their afternoon visit, the state officials, including Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, held a Cabinet meeting at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and approved a resolution recognizing the center's numerous contributions to exploration and technology and calling for increased support to help Kennedy adapt for future missions.
"We've got to make sure it continues to prosper," Scott said. "We have all the talent. If you look at the quality of individuals who work here, their dedication, their training, they've done it."
After the tour, Cabana gave Scott a Florida flag that flew on the final shuttle flight, Atlantis’ STS-135 mission, along with a Kennedy Space Center coin that went into space on shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 mission in 2008.
"Seeing the prototypes is helpful," Scott said. "But it's really the passion of the people and how committed they are to getting this done and getting this done in a manner that is good for our country that really excites you. It's inspiring."
Steven Siceloff, NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center