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Kennedy Space Center

NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center is America's premier gateway to the universe. As the world's only launch site for the Space Shuttle, Kennedy prepares the vehicles for each mission, operates each countdown and manages end-of-mission landing recovery activities. The Center also coordinates all expendable vehicle launches carrying a NASA payload, whether the launches take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, or elsewhere. Finally, as the last Earthly stop for International Space Station hardware, Kennedy prepares these elements for their missions in space.

Since December 1968, all manned launch operations have been conducted from Pads A and B at Launch Complex 39 (LC-39). Both pads are close to the ocean, five km (three miles) east of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). From 19691972, LC-39 was the departure point for all six Apollo manned Moon landing missions using the Saturn V rocket, the largest and most powerful operational launch vehicle in history, with more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust. LC-39 was used from 19812011 for all Space Shuttle launches.

Brevard County, by virtue of its most prominent geographical feature - Cape Canaveral - became the focal point of a new era of exploration, the Space Age. The first step in the transformation began in October 1949, when President Harry S. Truman established the Joint Long Range Proving Ground (currently known as the Eastern Range), a vast overwater military rocket test range that now extends 5,000 miles down the Atlantic from Cape Canaveral to Ascension Island. The Cape was ideal for testing missiles. Virtually uninhabited, it enabled personnel to inspect, fuel and launch missiles without danger to nearby communities. The area's climate also permitted year-round operations, and rockets could be launched over water instead of populated areas. The first launch from the Cape was conducted by a military-civilian team on July 24, 1950. The rocket, a modified German V-2 with an attached upper stage, attained an altitude of 10 miles. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would send men to the Moon and back by the end of the decade. The program, called Apollo, would require the largest rocket ever built - the 363-foot-tall Saturn V. The Cape, which had served so well up until then, was inadequate as a launch site for the monstrous vehicle, and an adjacent location was selected. Shortly afterwards, the first steel and concrete structures of America's Spaceport sprouted from the marsh and scrublands of northern Merritt Island. Concurrently, NASA's Launch Operations Directorate at Cape Canaveral, an element of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center, was elevated to independent status in July 1962 and renamed the Launch Operations Center. It was renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center in November 1963, in honor of the slain president. Five and a half years later, in July 1969, the first humans departed from the Spaceport's Launch Complex 39 to walk on the moon. Following completion of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, the facilities of the Spaceport were modified to support the nation's newest launch vehicle - the reusable Space Shuttle. At Launch Complex 39, where Moon rockets were once readied for flight, engineers and technicians prepare the reusable Space Shuttle for manned Earth-orbital missions. Unmanned military and commercial rockets are processed and launched at complexes on nearby Cape Canaveral, under the oversight of the U. S. Air Force. Cargoes destined for space - whether a planetary explorer to survey Jupiter and Saturn, a communications satellite, or a military payload for the Department of Defense - are assembled and tested in specially designed and equipped laboratories. Elements of the Spaceport team have also conducted launch operations for unmanned polarorbiting missions from NASA facilities at Vandenberg AFB at the Western Range in California.

The 2013 Environmental Assessment (EA) to increase Kennedy Space Center (KSC) spaceport capabilities and allow both commercial and governmental entities to utilize Launch Complex (LC) 39A and LC 39B for launch purposes. The intention is for the launch complexes to be modified to provide the capability for a variety of vertical launch vehicles to be processed and launched from either complex. While the two pads may have dissimilar configurations, together they would have the capability to accept various launch vehicles including, but not limited to, Atlas V, Delta IV, Delta IV Heavy, Liberty, Falcon 9 and 9 v1.1, Falcon Heavy, Antares, RSLVS, Athena IIc, Xaero, and the Space Launch System (SLS). In addition, the complexes would be capable of supporting static engine testing for rocket engine certification and recertification, as well as housing necessary ground support equipment and various fuels.

The potential for up to two launches per month by NASA and/or commercial users would provide the ability to continue space exploration. The modifications of LC 39A and LC 39B are proposed to provide vehicle processing and launch capabilities to multiple users. These modifications include the removal of the existing launch support structures on LC 39A. Most of the launch support structures have already been removed or modified at LC 39B and these actions were assessed in the Constellation EIS (NASA 2008).

Other actions include the placement of new launch support structures, the addition of fuel storage at each launch complex or centrally located between them, development of associated fuel transfer systems between the pads, the addition of a new lightning protection system at LC 39A, and the development of ground support operations for up to ten vehicle types. It is proposed that each launch complex will be able to process and launch one vehicle per month for a total of up to 12 annual launches at each pad, or 24 total annual launches at both pads combined. Launch scheduling will allow a three week preparation time at each complex prior to launch.

Flight operations at LC 39A and LC 39B by multiple users would require construction of new RP-1 storage and transfer facilities. Options for these facilities include either individual storage locations at each launch pad or at a centrally located common storage facility. Delivery of RP-1 by railcar is being considered and, therefore, railroad connections to chosen storage location(s) would be necessary to provide a mode of transport for incoming fuel supplies. These railroad connections would be constructed within existing roadways. A HIF is proposed to provide housing for launch vehicle preparation prior to launch.

Pad 39-A is managed by Space X under an agreement with NASA. The launch 19 February 2017 of a Dragon spacecraft by SpaceX CRS-10 was the first from Pad 39-A after the space shuttle flight ended on July 8, 2011.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 24-02-2017 19:55:54 ZULU