This past week at Cape Canaveral saw the passing of a space legend, the build up to one of the final shuttle launches and efforts to stem the flow of highly-technical space jobs away from the area.
It also saw private space company SpaceX striving to meet the launch criteria for its Falcon 9 rocket.
For almost every Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission, the last face that the astronauts saw before the hatch was closed was that of pad leader Guenter Wendt. Wendt passed away Monday morning at his Merritt Island home; he was 85. Astronauts affectionately dubbed Wendt the 'Pad Fhrer' and although NASA managers hated the name, Wendt relished it.
Wendt was employed by McDonnell Aircraft during the Mercury and Gemini missions but when NASA chose North American Aviation to build the Apollo Capsule Wendt was no longer involved. After the Apollo 1 fire the astronauts wanted someone with a no-nonsense view toward safety in charge of pad operations and demanded that Wendt be brought back onboard.
Wendt formed close personal bonds with many of the astronauts he worked with, sharing good-natured jokes with them while ensuring that every possible step was taken to guarantee their safety. Wendt would go on to support space shuttle operations before retiring in 1989. Retirement did not slow him down; he worked as a consultant on several film projects and co-authored a book about his experiences entitled: The Unbroken Chain in 2001. Wendt is survived by his three daughters.
STS-132, the final flight for space shuttle Atlantis, is set to begin May 14 at 2:20 p.m. EDT from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The orbiter will carry a crew of six to the International Space Station on a 12-day mission that will include some three spacewalks. Preparations for Atlantis' launch are currently proceeding on schedule.
"There have been no major issues, it's been going pretty smoothly," NASA spokesperson Candrea Thomas said. "The primary payload has been installed for flight."
The cargo for this flight will be the Russian Mini-Research Module 1, (MRM-1) also known as the Rassvet ("Dawn") module and the Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD) pallet that will hold a Ku-band Space to Ground Antenna (SGANT).
The crew will carry with them a compact disk that contains the digital copies of all entries submitted to NASA's Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Patch Contest. The contest was created to mark the end of the space shuttle program. The winner of the contest was Blake Dumesnil from NASA's Johnson Space Center.
Atlantis will not be retired after landing. The orbiter will be placed in a bit of a limbo status until the end of this year when it will serve as a possible rescue vehicle for the final shuttle mission, STS-134.
Jobs task force created
U.S. President Barack Obama appointed several high-ranking officials to a special task force that will impact jobs at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The task force's directive is to determine how to best spend $40 million the president has established for workforce retraining and economic development around the Space Coast region of Florida.
The White House released a memo stating that the task force will construct an action plan by August 15 and will be led by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The panel consists of some 13 members including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The group's primary objective is to help affected employees find employment after the space shuttle is retired at the end of this year. Some of these employees were scheduled to work on the now-cancelled Constellation Program. Although Congress is still debating the status of the Constellation Program, current employees will require transitional assistance to recover in the interim.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has pushed back the inaugural launch of its Falcon 9 rocket to no-earlier-than May 23 with the option to launch earlier if the opportunity presents itself. The key issues that delayed the first flight of the Falcon 9 have been range availability and the installation of the rocket's flight termination equipment.
Currently, the space shuttle Atlantis is set to launch on May 14 and a Delta IV rocket is scheduled for a May 20 launch. This means that SpaceX has had to struggle to find a workable launch window. The rocket also needs to have the self termination hardware installed that will self destruct the rocket if something goes wrong during flight.
This first flight is set to carry a prototype of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft into orbit and will launch from Space Launch Complex, (SLC) 40 at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to use the Falcon 9 to send cargo to the International Space Station. This contract includes three test flights and 12 missions to the orbiting laboratory.
The Cape Week in Review is compiled by Jason Rhian, the Cape Insider, and is a weekly
round-up of what's happening at Cape Canaveral. If you have information or suggestions for the Cape Week in Review please email us at email@example.com.
SpaceX Falcon 9 and STS-132 Images courtesy Alan Walters, copyright SpaceRef.