Press Release

NASA Kennedy Space Center Reflects on a Successful 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
January 8, 2007
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NASA Kennedy Space Center Reflects on a Successful 2006

As NASA’s Kennedy Space Center prepares for a busy 2007, our successes of the past year are recounted as we set the stage for our future activities.

Three successful space shuttle launches, five expendable launch vehicle missions, award-winning technology and processing several large payloads and components for delivery to the International Space Station were just some of KSC’s 2006 achievements.

To prepare for the transition from the Space Shuttle Program to NASA’s Constellation Program and future space exploration missions, KSC aligned with other NASA centers by combining the engineering work force into one new engineering group.

On Feb. 8, the Virgin Atlantic Airways GlobalFlyer aircraft took off from KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility in an attempt to set a new world record for the longest flight made by any aircraft. Piloted by Steve Fossett, the aircraft used more than 13,000 feet of the 15,000-ft. runway before taking to the sky.

In March, the center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the newly constructed Operations Support Building II. The five-story, 189,000-square-ft. facility comprises more than 900 office spaces, a 300-person mission conference center with an observation deck, training rooms, computer rooms, multimedia conference rooms and technical libraries. The building replaces modular housing and trailers in the Launch Complex 39 area.

In April, during the 25th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight, KSC renamed and dedicated the Launch Control Center’s Firing Room 1 as the “Young-Crippen Firing Room” to honor STS-1 Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen.

Also in April, KSC announced plans to seek private-sector partners to develop a space technology and commerce park to be named “Exploration Park at John F. Kennedy Space Center.” The park is expected to attract tenants engaged in space technology, space commerce and space education.

In June, KSC selected the Atlas V, now part of the United Launch Alliance rocket family, for the Mars Science Laboratory. This is a mission to carry a large rover to the red planet in fall 2009. The six-wheeled rover will explore Mars for two years, examining sites to identify where the building blocks for life may exist.

The European Space Agency’s Columbus research laboratory, an important component to the space station, arrived in June at KSC’s Space Station Processing Facility where it will be prepared for launch on a future shuttle mission.

Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off on mission STS-121 on July 4 (the first mission to launch on Independence Day) from Launch Pad 39B, carrying critical hardware to the station for future assembly missions. The mission restored the station to a three-person crew for the first time since May 2003. STS-121 also marked the first use of the Launch Control Center’s newly renovated Firing Room 4.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on mission STS-115 on Sept. 9, also from Launch Pad 39B, carrying the P3/P4 integrated truss segment for installation on the station. The mission resumed assembly of the station after a hiatus of four years.

The final launch of the year was made by Discovery on mission STS-116 on Dec. 9. It was the last currently planned shuttle launch from Launch Pad 39B. The challenging mission included installing the P5 short space truss segment to the station’s P3/P4 truss segment and completely rewiring and activating the station’s electrical and thermal control systems.

Launch Pad 39B is being transitioned to NASA’s Constellation Program and readied for the Ares 1-I test flight, scheduled for no earlier than 2009.

The first shuttle launch in 2007 is currently targeted for no earlier than March 16.

KSC’s Launch Services Program managed five expendable launch vehicle liftoffs from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

NASA’s New Horizons mission, the first in the New Frontiers Program, launched using Lockheed Martin’s massive Atlas V launch vehicle on Jan. 19 from Cape Canaveral. The piano-sized spacecraft will travel to Pluto and conduct the first close-up, in-depth study of the dwarf planet and its moons in summer 2015.

NASA’s Space Technology 5 spacecraft, also known as ST5, launched aboard the Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL vehicle from Vandenberg on March 22. ST5 is comprised of three miniature orbiting satellites which were flight tested in the harsh environment of space, and their ability to make research-quality scientific measurements was evaluated over 90 days.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-N, also called GOES-N, launched into orbit for NASA aboard a Boeing Delta IV on May 24 from Cape Canaveral. Upon entering Earth’s orbit, it became GOES-13. The satellite is rotating around the planet to view developing weather systems over the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean; North, South and Central America; and the Western and Central Atlantic Ocean.

Expendable launch vehicle missions aboard Boeing Delta II vehicles included CloudSat/CALIPSO on April 28 from Vandenberg, and the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories (STEREO) on Oct. 25 from Cape Canaveral.

CloudSat and CALIPSO are orbiting the Earth as part of the “A-train,” a constellation of Earth-observing satellites. CALIPSO provides climate observations, including the advanced study of clouds and aerosols, to help improve the ability to predict climate change and study the air we breathe. CloudSat’s trio of experimental satellites uses radar to perform the first study of clouds and precipitation on a global basis from space. STEREO is NASA’s first 3-D solar imaging mission to help researchers understand how the sun creates space weather.

Among payloads arriving at KSC for processing was NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft on Dec. 11, for final testing and launch preparations. THEMIS is scheduled to lift off on Feb. 15 aboard a Delta II rocket from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral.

With Constellation Program activities moving forward, NASA awarded a 90-day study contract to four space-related companies to separately examine long-term ground processing and infrastructure planning at KSC.

In September, the 50-foot door on the west end of the Operations and Checkout Building was opened for business for the first time in more than 20 years. The state of Florida provided $35 million to bring Lockheed Martin to KSC to use this facility to complete final assembly and testing of the new Orion crew capsule.

In October, public hearings were held at KSC and in Brevard County for the National Environmental Policy Act. These meetings were held to assess the potential impacts the Constellation Program may have on the KSC environment, including its wetlands, flood plains and wildlife.

In late 2006, a team of scientists from KSC and the University of Central Florida received NASA’s 2005 Invention of the Year Award for a groundwater treatment technology called Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron, or EZVI. The technology, developed at KSC, also received NASA’s 2005 Commercial Invention of the Year Award. NASA has signed six nonexclusive licenses with companies to market and further develop EZVI.

James W. Kennedy, the eighth KSC director, retired from the agency at the end of the year. William W. Parsons assumed the role as KSC’s ninth director on Jan. 4, 2007. After the Columbia tragedy, Parsons led the return-to-flight activities for the agency as Space Shuttle Program manager and played a major role in the success of the Discovery STS-114 mission in 2005.

KSC’s work force looks forward to an aggressive launch schedule in 2007, with five space shuttle missions and eight expendable launch vehicle missions, along with continuing transition work for the new Constellation Program and future space launches.

SpaceRef staff editor.