By Linda Herridge,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
As Kennedy Space Center transforms from a government-only launch facility into a multiuser spaceport, the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program Office manages the renovations and upgrades made to the launch and support infrastructure.
The program’s mission to prepare the center for next-generation rockets and spacecraft will enable NASA’s exploration objectives by developing the necessary ground systems, infrastructure and operational approaches.
“This is an exciting time for Kennedy,” said Jeremy Parsons, the chief of the GSDO Operations Integration Office at the center. “We’re in the process of transitioning to a multiuse spaceport and GSDO is working very hard to ensure that we can set up the grounds systems to support NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion.”
Launch Pad B, for example, is being extensively modernized. The historic flame trench used during the Apollo and shuttle missions is being transformed into a universal flame deflector, capable of supporting a wide variety of rockets and spacecraft.
Work is underway to remove the crawler track panels on the pad’s surface. The concrete surface beneath the panels and the catacomb roof below will be inspected for water damage and repaired. The pathway to the top of the pad supported the weight of the crawler-transporter that carried the Apollo/Saturn stack and the space shuttle.
In order to support NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the exhaust bays for the mobile launcher base will be widened to support two solid rocket boosters and four main engines.
In the Vehicle Assembly Building, shuttle-era work platforms have been removed from high bay 3. New platforms are set to be installed that will accommodate the SLS and other launch vehicles.
Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay, the Orion crew module for Exploration Flight Test 1 recently was put through a series of tests. The static loads test simulated different phases of launch, ascent, launch abort system separation, re-entry and landing to confirm Orion’s structure could withstand the rigors of spaceflight.
Now, Orion is in a clean room area where technicians are installing all of the propulsion and environmental control life support system tubing lines.
“This will lead us up to a follow-on proof test of those systems,” said Scott Wilson, manager of Orion Production Operations at Kennedy. “We’ll do our first power-up of Orion later this year.”
At the Launch Equipment Test Facility, the Orion ground test vehicle underwent a series of pyrotechnic bolts tests. The tests involved the Launch Abort System (LAS) detach point and measured how the explosive separation mechanism affected the vehicle and its tiles as it separated the spacecraft from the LAS.
The SLS is managed by Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala., Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Kennedy.
“This is an exciting time for everyone at NASA,” said Tom Erdman, of the MSFC resident office at Kennedy. “We’re on the cusp of once again starting deep-space exploration. The SLS vehicle is pivotal to make that happen.”
SLS is in a preliminary design review that should be completed by the end of summer. The next step is a critical design review.
Leveraging off 30 years of space shuttle hardware, the SLS core stage will use four RS25 engines rather than three, and two five-segment solid rocket boosters rather than four-segment boosters. The upper stage will use an interim cryo-propulsion system leveraged from the Delta IV rocket system.
“The rocket’s design will be evolvable, sustainable and affordable for this country and for the world,” Erdman said.