CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Kennedy Space Center in Florida helped NASA
return to the moon in 2009 and look beyond.
Kennedy teams were involved in launching 14 missions in 2009 -- eight on expendable launch vehicles, five on space shuttles and the first
new rocket to liftoff from Kennedy in more than a quarter of a
century, the Ares I-X.
The expendable launch vehicle mission that received the highest public attention was NASAâ?Ts first moon flight in 10 years, the Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing
Satellite, or LRO/LCROSS. It launched June 18 aboard an Atlas V
rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. LRO is designed to
orbit the moon and relay the most detailed data about the lunar
surface and environment. LCROSSâ?T mission was to impact into the lunar
surface to confirm the presence of frozen water in a permanently
shadowed crater at the moonâ?Ts south pole, which it did in October. In
March, NASAâ?Ts exploration eyes looked deep into space with the launch
of the Kepler mission aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral.
Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting
stars at distances where water could pool on the surface.
Kennedy helped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
with two launches in 2009. First in February, the NOAA-N Prime
spacecraft launched from NASAâ?Ts Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg
Air Force Base in California aboard a Delta II rocket. The new
polar-orbiting satellite will improve weather forecasting and climate
research. Then in June, the latest Geostationary Operational
Environmental Satellite, GOES-O, soared into space on a Delta IV
rocket from the Cape. NOAAâ?Ts GOES-O satellite will improve weather
forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world. NASAâ?Ts
Launch Services Program at Kennedy also supported two launches for
the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Space Tracking and Surveillance
System-Advanced Technology Risk Reduction spacecraft, or STSS-ATRR in
May from Vandenberg and the STSS-Demo mission in September from Cape
On Feb. 24, NASAâ?Ts Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, failed to
reach orbit after its liftoff aboard a Taurus XL launch vehicle from
Launch Pad 576-E at Vandenberg. An investigation concluded the OCO
mission was lost when the payload fairing of the Taurus failed to
separate during ascent. Kennedy ended the year with the successful
launch of NASAâ?Ts Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE,
spacecraft aboard a Delta II on Dec. 14 from Vandenberg. WISE will
survey the entire sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of
millions of objects never seen before, including the coolest stars,
most luminous galaxies and darkest near Earth asteroids and comets.
Kennedy sent five shuttles safely and successfully on their way in
2009. First on March 15, space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member
crew lifted off from Launch Pad 39A on the STS-119 mission to deliver
the final set of large power-generating solar array wings and a new
crew member to the International Space Station.
Then on May 11, shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew lifted off
on the fifth and final shuttle mission to repair and upgrade NASA's
Hubble Space Telescope, leaving the world-famous orbiting observatory
in better shape than ever before and extending its life at least five
more years. This also was the last shuttle mission scheduled to fly
to a destination other than the International Space Station before
the fleet is retired.
Two months later in July, shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member
STS-127 crew launched on a 16-day mission to deliver the final
segment of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agencyâ?Ts Kibo laboratory
and a new crew member to the space station. On Aug. 28, shuttle
Discovery and its seven-member crew launched on the STS-128 mission
to deliver supplies, equipment and a new crew member to the station.
The final shuttle mission of 2009, STS-129, began on Nov. 16 with
shuttle Atlantis launching with its six crew members. They delivered
critical spare parts and equipment the space station will need after
shuttles stop flying. Kennedy also held its first â?oTweet upâ? event
during the STS-129 launch, bringing in 101 Tweeters from 21 states
and four countries with an estimated 150,000 followers. Atlantis
brought back Expedition 21 Flight Engineer and Florida native Nicole
Stott, the last station astronaut scheduled to return from or launch
to the orbiting laboratory aboard a space shuttle.
Bad weather kept two shuttle missions from ending at Kennedy,
Atlantisâ?T STS-125 flight and Discoveryâ?Ts STS-128. Both landed at
Edwards Air Force Base in California and had to be flown back on top
of NASAâ?Ts modified 747 aircraft. One special passenger aboard
Discoveryâ?Ts ferry flight to Florida was Disneyâ?Ts toy astronaut Buzz
Lightyear. The space toy was returned to Walt Disney World in Orlando
for an Oct. 2 event that was the launching point for new NASA
educational efforts to encourage students to pursue studies in
science, technology and mathematics. NASA and Disney Parks had
collaborated to fly the 12-inch-tall action figure aboard the
International Space Station for more than 15 months.
Currently, there are only five scheduled shuttle missions left for
NASA before the programâ?Ts scheduled retirement in 2010, with the
first one targeted for February and the last in September.
In April and May for what was expected to be the last time for the
agencyâ?Ts Space Shuttle Program, two shuttles, Endeavour and Atlantis,
stood poised on both Launch Complex 39 launch pads. Atlantis was on
pad 39A for the STS-125 mission. Endeavour was on pad 39B as the
STS-125 rescue spacecraft, if required. After being cleared from its
possible rescue assignment, Endeavour was moved to pad A and then on
May 31, pad B officially was transferred from the Space Shuttle
Program to the Constellation Program for the Ares I-X flight test.
Pad B already had been undergoing modifications for first flight of
the new program. Three, 600-foot-tall lightning towers were assembled
this year at the pad to accommodate the taller Ares next-generation
rockets, including I-X, changing Kennedyâ?Ts landscape.
Going from the drawing board to the launch pad in just a few years,
NASAâ?Ts Ares I-X rocket lifted off Launch Pad 39B on Oct. 28. The
flight test lasted about six minutes from launch until splashdown in
the Atlantic Ocean. Among the systems tested, the rocketâ?Ts more than
700 sensors will provide ascent data for future flights. Other work
at Kennedy for the Constellation Program included ongoing
construction of a new, lighter and taller mobile launcher,
renovations on Kennedyâ?Ts historic Operations and Checkout Building
high bay for use as the final assembly facility for the Orion crew
exploration vehicle, and a test in April under real and simulated
weather conditions off the coast of Kennedy that used a full-scale
mock-up of the Orion spacecraft.
Kennedy continued to expand its environmentally friendly and recycling
initiatives this year. Five facilities are qualifying for the U.S.
Green Building Councilâ?Ts Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design, or LEED, certification. The Life Support Facility already
earned silver certification in 2009, and the Propellants North
Facility is expected to receive the highest rating, platinum, when it
is complete in the summer of 2010. There are about 145 platinum-rated
facilities in the United States with only one other in Florida.
In May, NASA and Florida Power and Light, or FPL, held a
groundbreaking ceremony for new solar power facilities at Kennedy.
FPL will build and maintain two solar photovoltaic power generation
systems on Kennedy property, a one-megawatt solar farm for Kennedyâ?Ts
use and a 10-megawatt one for Florida residents. The one-megawatt
facility officially was commissioned in November and has been
providing power to Kennedy for several months. The 10-megawatt
facility is set to be complete in April 2010. At the November
commissioning ceremony, Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana announced
plans to pursue a new renewable energy research and development
facility at Kennedyâ?Ts under development business center, Exploration
Park. Plans also were announced to expand the electrical generating
capacity of the 10-megawatt solar facility to 100-megawatts.
In October, NASA announced it was partnering with Starfighters Inc. of
Tarpon Springs, Fla., to use the space shuttle runway at Kennedy to
help support the development of the commercial space industry.
Kennedy and the aerospace company signed a cooperative Space Act
Agreement enabling Starfighters to become a tenant at Kennedy where
it will launch a new business venture with a fleet of privately
operated Lockheed F-104 Starfighter aircraft. The new venture also is
enabled by Space Florida, which has entered into separate agreements
with Starfighters to use a state-built hangar at Kennedy's Shuttle
Landing Facility and to provide other business assistance.
In July, Kennedy helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo
11 launch to and first steps on the moon with a ceremony at the
centerâ?Ts visitor complex. Several Apollo astronauts attended the
event, which featured the opening of the Apollo Treasures Gallery.
On July 30, Kennedy helped support a public meeting in Cocoa Beach,
Fla., of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, led
by Norm Augustine. The blue-ribbon panel was requested by President
Barack Obamaâ?Ts administration to conduct an independent review of
Americaâ?Ts human spaceflight plans and programs, as well as
alternatives. The committeeâ?Ts report was issued in October to the
White House and NASA. While final decisions about future space
exploration plans, including the Space Shuttle and Constellation
programs, havenâ?Tt been announced, NASAâ?Ts Kennedy Space Center and its
work force are expected to be a vital part of those endeavors in
2010, into the next decade and beyond.