Winds of Change

At NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) change was inevitable once the Space Shuttle Program came to a close in the summer of 2011. Today KSC has gone and continues to transform and morph into the World’s Space Port for space access and exploration. At the helm of all this transformation is NASA’s Ground System Development & Operations (GSDO). The Ground Systems Development and Operations’ primary objective is to prepare the center to process and launch the next-generation vehicles and spacecraft designed to achieve NASA’s goals for space exploration.

To achieve this transformation, program personnel are developing the necessary ground systems while refurbishing and upgrading infrastructure and facilities to meet tomorrow’s demands. This modernization effort keeps flexibility in mind, in order to accommodate a multitude of government, commercial and other customers.

GSDO is making all the necessary changes for the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the Launch Control Center’s Young-Crippen Firing Room 1 and the mobile launcher (ML), Launch Pad 39B, in support of the SLS, the crawler-transporter, as well as the refurbish of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) building where the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that will carry crew members aboard the SLS will be processed.

Some of the changes that are happening as you read this blog post include Inside the VAB, high bay 3 has been emptied of its space shuttle era work platforms and support equipment. A total of 10 levels of new work platforms — 20 platforms altogether — are being manufactured and delivered to KSC.

The crawler-transporters that carried the Saturn V rockets and space shuttle to the launch pad for more than 40 years also will carry the next generation of launch vehicles and spacecraft to the launch pads. One of the transporters is being strengthened to support the increased weight of the SLS and Orion spacecraft, as well.

Also, the command, control, communications and range systems are being modernized. In addition to bringing computers, tracking systems and other networks up to date, GSDO is creating systems that can handle several different kinds of spacecraft and rockets. The computers, antennas and software are expected to reduce the need for a large launch team.

Overall this transformation is a must-see as NASA moves to a more daring task, to get humans to land, work on the planet Mars, and return safely back to Earth. GSDO is a critical part as NASA’s #JourneytoMars moves forward. As KSC prepares for the first real test of its GSDO’s ready for launch and all systems GO! Space Launch System EM-1 will come on line in late 2018 to solidified NASA Space Port and the continued quest for Exploration.

Dr. Lester Morales M.D.
Educator Professional Development Specialist
Kennedy Space Center