U.S. Launch Providers Plan Busy Year in 2016

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

The United States has a very busy launch year ahead if all 33 flights currently on the manifest go off as planned. Given the tendency of launches to slip and rockets to occasionally go boom, that is a very big “if”.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX each have 15 launches penciled in this year, according to the latest update to Spaceflight Now’s Launch Schedule page. Orbital ATK has plans for three launches during 2016. (more…)

Stratolaunch Eyes Operations From Kennedy Space Center

Stratolaunch vehicle. (Credit: Stratolaunch)
Stratolaunch vehicle. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems is eying the Kennedy Space Center as its base of operations, beginning with a demonstration flight of the air-launch system from the former Shuttle Landing Facility in 2017, CEO Gary Wentz tells Florida Today:

Stratolaunch, which was publicly introduced in December 2011, hopes to provide lower-cost launches by freeing itself from ground-based range infrastructure and weather restrictions and enabling quicker flight turnarounds.


NASA Centers Work on Satellite Servicing Technologies

This artist’s concept shows a servicing spacecraft, left, approaching satellite needing assistance. NASA is developing technology needed to bring a high-technology “gas pump, robotic mechanic and tow truck” to satellites in orbit. Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

By Bob Granath
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

With satellites playing increasingly important roles in everyday life, NASA is developing the technology to build Earth-orbiting, roving “service stations” capable of extending the life of these spacecraft. Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are assisting the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in developing the concept for bringing a high-technology gas pump, robotic mechanic and tow truck to satellites in space.


Composite Crew Module Undergoes Vacuum Testing at Marshall

The Composite Crew Module being rolled into the vacuum chamber at Marshall's Environmental Test Facility. The test will continue through the end of the summer. (Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

Huntsville, Ala. (NASA PR — This week, engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., moved a Composite Crew Module (CCM) into the Environmental Test Facility vacuum chamber to gauge how well a space structure fabricated with composite materials will react in a simulated space environment. Data gained during this test series will aid in the design and development of future in-space composite habitable structures.


Space Florida Given Leadership Award for Boeing Use of KSC Facility

Boeing plans to use an Orbiter Processing Facility for its CST-100 spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL (Space Florida PR) – Today, Space Florida was awarded the Economic Development Leadership Award from CoreNet Global, the world’s leading association for corporate real estate and workplace professionals, service providers and economic developers. The award submission by Space Florida detailed the utilization of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) facilities by The Boeing Company for manufacture and test of its Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft.


Boeing to Build Commercial Spacecraft at KSC, Create 550 Jobs

NASA PR — CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — In an innovative agreement that will create new jobs, NASA today announced a partnership with Space Florida to occupy, use and modify Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility-3, the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility and Processing Control Center.

Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency of the state of Florida, has an agreement for use of the Orbiter Processing Facility-3 with the Boeing Company to manufacture and test the company’s Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) spacecraft, creating up to 550 jobs along the Space Coast. The 15-year use permit with Space Florida is the latest step Kennedy is making as the center transitions from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport.


Could Kennedy Space Center Thrive as a Federal City?

An alternative future for the Kennedy Space Center
WMFE – FM Radio

“90.7’s Pat Duggins reports on a possible role model for the future of the Kennedy Space Center. America’s spaceport faces huge job cuts with the end of the Space Shuttle program. NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi sought a new role for itself over concern of job cuts following the end of Project Apollo in the 1970’s. The result was an innovative partnership with government, higher education, and the private sector that KSC might follow.”

Senators: NASA Should Use Existing Launch Areas, Not Wildlife Refuges

Florida’s two U.S. senators have urged NASA not to build a new commercial launch site in popular wildlife areas but to use existing launch locations instead, the Dayton News-Journal reports.

“There is great promise in the pursuit of a viable U.S. commercial space industry, and this can be achieved while respecting the existing and precious habitat of the Space Coast,” Mel Martinez wrote in a letter to NASA. His colleague, Bill Nelson, wrote a similar letter to the space agency this week.

The space agency is studying whether to build a new launch complex on one of two sites on north end of the Kennedy Space Center. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore co-manage the areas.

The proposal has generated strong opposition from birdwatchers, fishermen and other locals who use the popular recreation areas. They fear the sites could be damaged by the rocket facility and closed to users.

One solution would be to situate the new launch complex at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where there are a number of abandoned launch facilities. Nelson’s letter indicates that Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, who oversees the station, is willing to work with NASA on finding a location for the facility.

NASA: Up to 6,400 Jobs Lost as Shuttle Retires

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that up to 6,400 contractors could lose their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center after the space shuttle is retired in 2010.

In a report due out on Tuesday, the space agency estimates that the contractor staff could fall from about 8,000 today to between 1,600 and 2,300 in 2011. Employment would begin to pick up in subsequent years as NASA prepares to launch its new Ares/Orion system. Far fewer employees will be needed to launch the new system.

Protect Meritt Island Wildlife Preserve, Newspapers Say

The Daytona Beach News-Journal and Orlando Sentinel have have thrown their editorial weight behind citizens who are opposed to building a new commercial launch facility in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at the Kennedy Space Center.

About 200 residents spoke out against the idea during a recent public hearing. The refuge site is one of several locations being considered. Residents suggested that the new facility be built on a nearby Air Force site that already hosts abandoned launch pads.

“Considering that some 1 million visitors a year trek into the refuge — birders, boaters, fishermen, hunters and hikers by the droves — one would think officials might have measured the potential economic blow to tourism and related loss of jobs from closing parts of the refuge against the 200 jobs and economic prospects of commercial space flight. NASA hasn’t. Interior Department and state officials should,” the Dayton editors wrote.

The Orlando Sentinel editors were a bit more blunt: “What part of the word ‘refuge’ doesn’t NASA understand?”

Meanwhile, Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas credits NASA for holding public hearings and doubts agency officials will build anything in the wildlife refuge. “If anything, it seems as if they are sabotaging the idea,” he wrote.

Griffin: KSC Could Lose Thousands Of Jobs

Thousands of people could lose their jobs as NASA transitions from the space shuttle to its new Ares/Orion system beginning in 2010, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin warned this week.

“Our new systems will require and should require fewer people to operate the shuttle which is an expensive system,” Griffin said.

Our view: An ear full

Florida Today questions the feasibility of a commercial spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in the wake of public hearings where residents spoke against its possible location in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The newspaper wonders whether the project is financially feasible and whether it would have a detrimental impact on tourism and the environment. “[Residents] also offered a good suggestion: Consider building the complex at abandoned launch sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,” the paper writes.