NASA Kennedy Space Center 2009 Review and Look Ahead
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Kennedy Space Center in Florida helped NASA return to the moon in 2009 and look beyond.
Kennedy teams were involved in launching 14 missions in 2009 -- eight on expendable launch vehicles, five on space shuttles and the first new rocket to liftoff from Kennedy in more than a quarter of a century, the Ares I-X.
The expendable launch vehicle mission that received the highest public attention was NASA’s first moon flight in 10 years, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LRO/LCROSS. It launched June 18 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. LRO is designed to orbit the moon and relay the most detailed data about the lunar surface and environment. LCROSS’ mission was to impact into the lunar surface to confirm the presence of frozen water in a permanently shadowed crater at the moon’s south pole, which it did in October. In March, NASA’s exploration eyes looked deep into space with the launch of the Kepler mission aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the surface.
Kennedy helped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with two launches in 2009. First in February, the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft launched from NASA’s Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a Delta II rocket. The new polar-orbiting satellite will improve weather forecasting and climate research. Then in June, the latest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-O, soared into space on a Delta IV rocket from the Cape. NOAA’s GOES-O satellite will improve weather forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy also supported two launches for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Advanced Technology Risk Reduction spacecraft, or STSS-ATRR in May from Vandenberg and the STSS-Demo mission in September from Cape Canaveral.
On Feb. 24, NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, failed to reach orbit after its liftoff aboard a Taurus XL launch vehicle from Launch Pad 576-E at Vandenberg. An investigation concluded the OCO mission was lost when the payload fairing of the Taurus failed to separate during ascent. Kennedy ended the year with the successful launch of NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, spacecraft aboard a Delta II on Dec. 14 from Vandenberg. WISE will survey the entire sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of millions of objects never seen before, including the coolest stars, most luminous galaxies and darkest near Earth asteroids and comets.
Kennedy sent five shuttles safely and successfully on their way in 2009. First on March 15, space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew lifted off from Launch Pad 39A on the STS-119 mission to deliver the final set of large power-generating solar array wings and a new crew member to the International Space Station.
Then on May 11, shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew lifted off on the fifth and final shuttle mission to repair and upgrade NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, leaving the world-famous orbiting observatory in better shape than ever before and extending its life at least five more years. This also was the last shuttle mission scheduled to fly to a destination other than the International Space Station before the fleet is retired.
Two months later in July, shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member STS-127 crew launched on a 16-day mission to deliver the final segment of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory and a new crew member to the space station. On Aug. 28, shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew launched on the STS-128 mission to deliver supplies, equipment and a new crew member to the station.
The final shuttle mission of 2009, STS-129, began on Nov. 16 with shuttle Atlantis launching with its six crew members. They delivered critical spare parts and equipment the space station will need after shuttles stop flying. Kennedy also held its first “Tweet up” event during the STS-129 launch, bringing in 101 Tweeters from 21 states and four countries with an estimated 150,000 followers. Atlantis brought back Expedition 21 Flight Engineer and Florida native Nicole Stott, the last station astronaut scheduled to return from or launch to the orbiting laboratory aboard a space shuttle.
Bad weather kept two shuttle missions from ending at Kennedy, Atlantis’ STS-125 flight and Discovery’s STS-128. Both landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and had to be flown back on top of NASA’s modified 747 aircraft. One special passenger aboard Discovery’s ferry flight to Florida was Disney’s toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear. The space toy was returned to Walt Disney World in Orlando for an Oct. 2 event that was the launching point for new NASA educational efforts to encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology and mathematics. NASA and Disney Parks had collaborated to fly the 12-inch-tall action figure aboard the International Space Station for more than 15 months.
Currently, there are only five scheduled shuttle missions left for NASA before the program’s scheduled retirement in 2010, with the first one targeted for February and the last in September.
In April and May for what was expected to be the last time for the agency’s Space Shuttle Program, two shuttles, Endeavour and Atlantis, stood poised on both Launch Complex 39 launch pads. Atlantis was on pad 39A for the STS-125 mission. Endeavour was on pad 39B as the STS-125 rescue spacecraft, if required. After being cleared from its possible rescue assignment, Endeavour was moved to pad A and then on May 31, pad B officially was transferred from the Space Shuttle Program to the Constellation Program for the Ares I-X flight test. Pad B already had been undergoing modifications for first flight of the new program. Three, 600-foot-tall lightning towers were assembled this year at the pad to accommodate the taller Ares next-generation rockets, including I-X, changing Kennedy’s landscape.
Going from the drawing board to the launch pad in just a few years, NASA’s Ares I-X rocket lifted off Launch Pad 39B on Oct. 28. The flight test lasted about six minutes from launch until splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. Among the systems tested, the rocket’s more than 700 sensors will provide ascent data for future flights. Other work at Kennedy for the Constellation Program included ongoing construction of a new, lighter and taller mobile launcher, renovations on Kennedy’s historic Operations and Checkout Building high bay for use as the final assembly facility for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and a test in April under real and simulated weather conditions off the coast of Kennedy that used a full-scale mock-up of the Orion spacecraft.
Kennedy continued to expand its environmentally friendly and recycling initiatives this year. Five facilities are qualifying for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. The Life Support Facility already earned silver certification in 2009, and the Propellants North Facility is expected to receive the highest rating, platinum, when it is complete in the summer of 2010. There are about 145 platinum-rated facilities in the United States with only one other in Florida.
In May, NASA and Florida Power and Light, or FPL, held a groundbreaking ceremony for new solar power facilities at Kennedy. FPL will build and maintain two solar photovoltaic power generation systems on Kennedy property, a one-megawatt solar farm for Kennedy’s use and a 10-megawatt one for Florida residents. The one-megawatt facility officially was commissioned in November and has been providing power to Kennedy for several months. The 10-megawatt facility is set to be complete in April 2010. At the November commissioning ceremony, Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana announced plans to pursue a new renewable energy research and development facility at Kennedy’s under development business center, Exploration Park. Plans also were announced to expand the electrical generating capacity of the 10-megawatt solar facility to 100-megawatts.
In October, NASA announced it was partnering with Starfighters Inc. of Tarpon Springs, Fla., to use the space shuttle runway at Kennedy to help support the development of the commercial space industry. Kennedy and the aerospace company signed a cooperative Space Act Agreement enabling Starfighters to become a tenant at Kennedy where it will launch a new business venture with a fleet of privately operated Lockheed F-104 Starfighter aircraft. The new venture also is enabled by Space Florida, which has entered into separate agreements with Starfighters to use a state-built hangar at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility and to provide other business assistance.
In July, Kennedy helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch to and first steps on the moon with a ceremony at the center’s visitor complex. Several Apollo astronauts attended the event, which featured the opening of the Apollo Treasures Gallery.
On July 30, Kennedy helped support a public meeting in Cocoa Beach, Fla., of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, led by Norm Augustine. The blue-ribbon panel was requested by President Barack Obama’s administration to conduct an independent review of America’s human spaceflight plans and programs, as well as alternatives. The committee’s report was issued in October to the White House and NASA. While final decisions about future space exploration plans, including the Space Shuttle and Constellation programs, haven’t been announced, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and its work force are expected to be a vital part of those endeavors in 2010, into the next decade and beyond.
For more information about NASA's Kennedy Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kennedy
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