As NASA prepares to return humans to the surface of the Moon, tests for the space agency’s Artemis I mission aren’t the only activities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
On June 20, the space agency completed a critical dress-rehearsal of a launch for its new Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket and Orion spacecraft. The 30-story rocket was fueled for the first time, ahead of an anticipated uncrewed launch later this Summer or early Fall.
By 2025, the Artemis program promises to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
Commercial aerospace development is booming around Cape Canaveral. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is leasing property in Exploration Park on Merritt Island, where they’ve opened an expansive 650,000 sq. ft. rocket factory, their Orbital Launch Site (OLS) manufacturing facility. Their launch and mission control centers are also based here.
Blue Origin’s heavy-lift vehicle, the New Glenn, is expected to launch next year from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The two-stage rocket is named after legendary NASA astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. Construction at the launch pad has included these lightning towers, water tower, and horizontal integration facility. It will also be home of Blue Origin’s payload integration and first stage refurbishment centers. New Glenn rockets launching from LC-36 are scheduled to deliver Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite constellation of 3,236 satellites delivering global broadband service.
Here’s a look outside SpaceX Launch and Landing Control, which is located adjacent to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The team in this building is responsible for operating the Falcon 9 rocket at Space Launch Complex 40 throughout the launch countdown.
One of their next launches will be NET July 10 for NASA’s SpaceX CRS-25 Cargo Resupply Mission to the International Space Station.
While at KSC, I got an arm’s-length view of a just-flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket being transported across the complex. This is from one of its two launches at the complex since Friday. The rocket will be refurbished and flown again.
A few miles away, SpaceX’s offshore recovery vessel ‘Shannon,’ is moored at Port Canaveral, Florida. It was most recently used in May to retrieve the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft after its splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Its Crew-3 NASA and ESA astronauts had just completed 176 days in Space at the International Space Station.
It will likely play a role in the retrieval of the Dragon Freedom spacecraft and its Crew-4 astronauts this September in either the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re wondering — its namesake is SpaceX Crew-1 astronaut Shannon Walker. It has an identical counterpart named Megan, after Crew-2 astronaut Megan McArthur.
PRESERVING THE PAST FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
Historic preservation is a priority on Florida’s Space Coast. Groups like the USAF Space and Missile Museum Foundation are actively trying to locate and preserve artifacts from the early days of America’s space program.
One of their most recent projects was the restoration of this Vehicle Test Console used during the Gemini Program (1964-1966). It was rescued from the blockhouse firing room at Launch Complex 19. The console was used to monitor the Titan Il rocket that launched Gemini spacecraft. As you can see, it was in pretty rough shape before the restoration.
It’s now on display at The Sands Space History Center near Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
SHARING NASA’S STORY
More than a decade after its retirement, the Space Shuttle continues to be the star of the show at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction, featuring the historic spacecraft rotated 43.21 degrees, continues to rocket KSC to the top of the list of Central Florida’s most popular tourist destinations.
On June 17, the complex opened a sprawling 50-thousand square foot, multi-level attraction dedicated to next-generation spacecraft and space exploration innovations from NASA and its commercial partners.
Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex is situated next to the rocket garden displaying historic articles and full-size replicas from the early years of spaceflight.
Inside, ‘Gateway’ gives visitors an immersive experience focused on the future. Some of the features include:
- Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 Upper-stage Rocket Engine
- Boeing Crew Space Transporation-100 Starliner Mock-Up Capsule (full-scale engineering model)
- Boeing Spacesuit
- Boeing Starliner Simulator (full-scale model)
- LIFE Habitat Cut-Away (scale model)
- Lockheed Martin Space Habitat (full-scale mockup)
- NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket (scale model)
- Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 Capsule (flight flown)
- Orion Heatshield Tiles
- Sierra Space Dream Chaser (full-scale model)
- Sierra Space Shooting Star™ (full-scale model)
- SpaceX Cargo Dragon COTS-2 (flight flown)
- SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, officially known as Booster B1023 (flight flown)
- United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket (scale model)
- United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket (scale model)
While NASA and the U.S. military are still the primary divers of the spaceflight and aeronautics industry, commercial and private interests are key players fueling the current boom.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KLTV/KTRE-TV or Gray Television. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2022 Lane Luckie