NASA Administrator Touts Strides Along Space Coast
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden took a few dozen media on a road show tour of the agency's Kennedy Space Center and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 23 to show the progress being made for future government and commercial space endeavors that will begin from Florida's Space Coast.
During his first stop at the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) processing facility on Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 40, Bolden announced that the company has completed its Space Act Agreement with NASA for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS). As the first private company to ever carry cargo to the International Space Station, SpaceX now is scheduled to launch 12 contracted cargo flights to the station for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) Program.
Inside SpaceX's facility, a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are being prepared for the first CRS mission targeted for October. The company also is working with NASA under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) phase of the Commercial Crew Program to launch astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.
"We cannot sustain the International Space Station if America does not have a capability to get our crews and cargo to space, and that's where the commercial entities come in," said Bolden "They are not a 'nice to have' anymore, they are an essential part of our International Space Station program."
Two other industry partners, Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) and The Boeing Company, are working under CCiCap to develop America's next-generation crew transportation systems. SNC completed its first CCiCap milestone last week with a kick-off meeting outlining implementation plans for its Dream Chaser and United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Boeing is hosting a similar meeting this week for its CST-100 spacecraft and integrated Atlas V.
Next, the administrator joined ULA's James Sponnick, Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) Deputy Project Scientist Nicky Fox and NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati in front of an Atlas V at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41. There, RBSP is awaiting an overnight launch to Earth's radiation belts to help scientists better understand the sun's influence on space weather and how it affects our planet.
"Most spacecraft try to avoid the radiation belts, they either don't have other orbits that go through them or they have sensitive equipment," Fox said. "We have to live in them, we have to work in them, so we are two incredibly, incredibly rugged spacecraft."
Bolden said studying radiation levels in space is just one piece of thread that the agency will use to tie together its robotic and human exploration missions. RBSP, for example, could provide data about radiation's effect on humans, which NASA could glean from as it prepares for its first crewed mission to Mars aboard the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).
Inside Kennedy's Operations and Checkout Building (O&C), Bolden showed media the progress being made on Orion's Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) vehicle, which is scheduled to fly uncrewed in 2014 to evaluate how the spacecraft behaves during launch, in space and through re-entry.
The tour came to a close at Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3), which is being leased by Boeing through an agreement with Space Florida for the manufacturing and assembly of its CST-100. The company expects to add about 550 jobs along Florida's Space Coast as it begins to process and launch the crew capsule.
Throughout Bolden's tour, the common theme was that NASA is investing in American companies and American ingenuity without giving up on its ambitious desires to further explore our solar system.
"Most importantly, we’re keeping the United States the undisputed world leader in space exploration and helping to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts."
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center