Kennedy Space Center Celebrates NASA's 50 Years in 2008, Eyes Next 50
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - While employees at Kennedy Space Center celebrated the first 50 years of NASA in 2008, they also were working on missions and projects that will carry the space agency into the next five decades and beyond.
NASA commemorated its 50th anniversary on Oct. 1 and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex helped the public mark the golden milestone by hosting three weeks of live concerts with the music from America's space eras. The 2008 Fall Concert Series featured music from the 1960's, 70's and 80's, spanning the time of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs. The series culminated with Kennedy's second Space & Air Show in November, which was highlighted by the precision flying of U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
About the same time NASA was celebrating the anniversary, Kennedy was welcoming a new center director. Bob Cabana assumed the role as the center's tenth director Oct. 26. Cabana, who is a former space shuttle astronaut, came to Kennedy from NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi where he was director for the past year. He also was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May. Cabana succeeded William W. Parsons who left the agency Oct. 11 to pursue opportunities in the private sector.
Kennedy teams were involved in launching seven different missions into space in 2008, four on space shuttles and three on expendable launch vehicles. Atlantis' STS-122 mission started the year's shuttle flights with a February trip to the International Space Station. Atlantis' seven astronauts attached the European Space Agency's Columbus science lab. The following month, Endeavour's STS-123 mission brought to the space station the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory and the Canadian Space Agency's two-armed robotic system, known as Dextre. In May, Discovery's STS-124 mission delivered and installed JAXA's Kibo pressurized module and the Japanese Remote Manipulator System to the station. Finally in November, shuttle Endeavour's STS-126 mission brought up supplies and equipment that will allow the space station to expand from its current three-person crew to a six-person crew in May 2009.
The shuttle program's emphasis on NASA's and America's international partners in 2008 was exemplified early in the year at Kennedy Space Center. NASA and the U.S. Department of State welcomed ambassadors from more than 45 countries to the center. The visit, one of the largest tours undertaken by the diplomatic corps, provided dignitaries an overview of the United States' space exploration programs and showed them various facilities at the center.
Two of the three NASA science missions sent into space aboard expendable launch vehicles this year took place in June. NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. on June 11. GLAST is exploring the universe's ultimate frontier and studying gamma-ray bursts. On June 20, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 launched Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The satellite is on a globe-circling voyage to continue charting sea levels, a vital indicator of global climate change. Then on Oct. 19, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission, or IBEX, successfully launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. IBEX will be the first spacecraft to image and map dynamic interactions occurring in the outer solar system.
Solar interactions with the Earth were the focus of a new partnership between NASA and Florida Power & Light, or FPL, signed in June. Kennedy and the state's largest electric utility teamed up to provide Florida residents and America's space program with new sources of "green power." The agreement will permit FPL to lease 60 acres of NASA Kennedy Space Center's approximately 140,000 acres for a solar photovoltaic power generation system. The facility will produce an estimated 10 megawatts of electrical power, which is enough energy to serve roughly 3,000 homes. As part of the agreement, FPL will build a separate one megawatt solar power facility at Kennedy that will support the electrical needs of the center. Groundbreaking for the one megawatt facility will be early in 2009.
The first major flight hardware pieces of the Ares I-X rocket started arriving in Florida in November for the inaugural test flight of the agency's next-generation launch system. The Ares I-X upper stage simulator and the forward skirt are being prepared for the targeted July 11, 2009 test flight. During the next few months, all of the additional hardware needed to complete the test vehicle will be delivered to Kennedy, beginning with a piece that simulates a fifth segment for the four-segment solid rocket booster and concluding with delivery of the complete motor set in January 2009.
The Ares I-X rocket is a combination of existing and simulator hardware that will resemble the Ares I crew launch vehicle in size, shape and weight. It will provide valuable data to guide the final design of the Ares I, which will launch astronauts in the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The test flight also will bring NASA one step closer to its exploration goals of returning humans to the moon for sustained exploration of the lunar surface and missions to destinations beyond.
In May, Kennedy Space Center awarded a contract for the construction of the Ares I mobile launcher platform for the Constellation Program. The new platform will be used in the assembly, testing and servicing of Ares I at existing Kennedy facilities. The space shuttle mobile launcher platform that will be used for Discovery's targeted February 2009 mission to the International Space Station will be turned over to the Constellation Program and modified for the Ares I-X test flight.
After more than four decades of use, Kennedy's Launch Pad 39A sustained significant damage during the launch of space shuttle Discovery on May 31. It occurred to an area of the pad known as the flame trench. The damage was analyzed and repair by August. The fix is expected to last through the remainder of the space shuttle program.
Shortly after the repairs were complete, Tropical Storm Fay slowly made its way across the state. Although Kennedy was closed Aug. 19-21 because of heavy rain and wind, the center sustained minimal damage.
In May, NASA entered into two agreements to help the work force and regional economy with the transition from the Space Shuttle Program to the Constellation Program. Kennedy management signed a Space Act Agreement and renewed its partnership with the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast to strengthen, retain and expand Brevard County as the prime location for the aerospace industry. Then Kennedy management signed the center's first Space Act Agreement with the Brevard Workforce Development Board to help support existing and future missions at the space center.
The Space Gateway Support 10-year Joint Base Operations Services Contract ended Sept. 30. New contractors officially began the transition Oct. 1, resuming operations and services to the center.
For more information on NASA's Kennedy Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kennedy
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov
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