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A New Beginning
The enormous open space of Kennedy Space Center's Operations and Checkout Building was filled with anticipation as representatives from NASA, Lockheed Martin, Space Florida, the state of Florida, honored guests and center employees participated in a ceremony on Jan. 30 to commemorate the conversion of the facility's high bay for use by the Constellation Program.

Center Director Bill Parsons addresses guests and attendees in the Operations and Checkout Building The event recognized the initial step in the transition of the first facility at Kennedy to accommodate the next generation of space vehicles.

Image right: Center Director Bill Parsons addresses guests and attendees in the high bay of the Operations and Checkout Building. Seated right to left are, Russell Romanella, director of the International Space Station and Spacecraft Processing Directorate at Kennedy Space Center, Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin program manager; Thad Altman, representative of the state of Florida; Steve Koller, executive director of Space Florida; and Skip Hatfield, Orion Project manager. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett + View High-res Image

"We are proud of this building and its rich history, and together with NASA and the outstanding men and women of the Kennedy Space Center, we look forward to its exciting future," said Russell Romanella, director of NASA's International Space Station and Spacecraft Processing Directorate.

NASA has selected Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor to design, develop and build Orion, America's spacecraft for future exploration activities. The capsule will carry astronauts back to the moon and later to Mars.

Apollo command module in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building In its illustrious past, the five-story structure was once called the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building and was used to process and test the Apollo modules for flight.

Image left: In this photo dated Dec. 12, 1967, the Apollo Spacecraft 020 Command Module is hoisted into position for mating with Service Module in the Kennedy's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building. Spacecraft 020 was flown on the Apollo 6 unmanned, earth-orbital space mission. Photo credit: NASA/JSC + View High-res Image

Later in the space program, the renamed Operations and Checkout Building was used to house and test the Spacelab science modules before their journey to the International Space Station.

Kennedy Space Center and Space Florida partnered to begin the monumental task of preparing the building for the new program. The state of Florida provided additional funds to clear the facility of about 50 tons of steel stands, structures and equipment.
+ View Cleanup Video (Time-lapse video)

"We are very humbled that we can bring the Orion project to the same place where Apollo went through processing," said Cleon Lacefield, Orion program manager with Lockheed Space Systems Company. "It's great to be part of the KSC family."

Spacelab module in the Operations and Checkout Building Image right: Workers in the Operations and Checkout Building prepare the Spacelab module, housed in the U.S. Microgravity Laboratory-2 payload that was carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Mission STS-73. Photo credit: NASA/KSC
+ View High-res Image

Now poised to serve the Vision for Space Exploration, the 40-year-old building will be used by Lockheed Martin to complete the final assembly and testing of the new Orion crew capsule.

In the next few years, it will be great to see the "move from the empty building you see today to a bustling factory building the spacecraft of the future for our exploration initiative," said Skip Hatfield, manager of NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle Project Office.

Newly appointed Kennedy Center Director William Parsons spoke about the importance of partnerships in keeping the Constellation Project moving forward.

New Constellation banner is unfurled during transition ceremony. "I'm committing NASA Kennedy Space Center to helping each one of you be successful," Parsons told the project partners. "That's my pledge to you."

Image left: After the ceremony, Center Director Bill Parsons, representatives from NASA, Lockheed Martin, Space Florida and the state of Florida unfurled the new banner. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett +View High-res Image

Cheers and applause erupted when a new banner highlighting the Orion crew exploration vehicle was unfurled in the historic building, marking the official transfer of the facility to the Constellation Program.

NASA's next-generation spacecraft is targeted for flight no later than 2014, and Orion's first flight to the moon is planned for no later than 2020.

Elaine M. Marconi
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center