This week at Cape Canaveral saw a whirlwind of activity regarding the end of shuttle era and the future of NASA. A forum was held with the express purpose to generate ideas to find ways to diversify the Central Florida economic base. Astronauts trained at Kennedy Space Center for (currently) the next-to-last shuttle mission in the shuttle program. In a sign of the rebirth of 'launch row' - another launch complex has been approved to return to business meanwhile in a sign of the times hundreds of shuttle workers were informed of impending lay offs. It was also announced that a former Melbourne teacher, now an astronaut, has been assigned an upcoming slot aboard the International Space Station.
"Best Ideas" Forum Held to Generate Economy-Driving Ideas
Hosted at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport by the aerospace research and investment group Space Florida, the "Best Ideas" Forum was an all-day workshop designed to review ideas to help the Space Coast region of Florida become less dependent on NASA programs. The event was held on July 6 starting at 9 a.m. and wrapping up at 4 p.m. EDT. Various ideas on how to accomplish this were showcased throughout the day.
Concepts such as 'green' job development, re-purposing workers and facilities toward automotive and military objectives as well as assisting emerging companies and reinforcing established ones were all suggested. Space Florida recently announced its affiliation with Avera Motors and the auto manufacturer was present with its concept to convert shuttle workers - into car builders.
Avera was not the only company present pitching ideas for the future of the space shuttle's assorted resources. United Space Alliance (USA) suggested that one of its Cape Canaveral locations would make an excellent site to produce military hardware. There were also groups present that were suggesting former shuttle workers could work on power derived from wind mills or to produce environmentally-friendly light bulbs.
Some 30 companies were present - explaining ideas they hope would be accepted by the Federal Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development. This task force was established by President Obama during his April 15 visit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The task force has some $40 million to dole out to the ideas it feels will be of greatest benefit to the economic viability of the region.
STS-133 Crew Train at KSC for Upcoming Mission
The crew of STS-133 paid Kennedy Space Center a visit this week to train with equipment that they will use while on-orbit for their upcoming mission aboard shuttle Discovery. Currently, the crew of six is scheduled to blast off on Nov. 1 at 4:33 p.m. EDT. This week they were at the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) on Thursday, July 8 in preparation for their 11-day mission.
The crew of STS-133 consists of; Commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Michael Barratt, Alvin Drew, Tim Kopra and Nicole Stott. They left KSC on Saturday to continue their training back at Johnson Space Center. They were not alone in their training, as several trainers joined them in this exercise. The astronauts will return to KSC on Oct. 15 for a Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) where the astronauts will practice launch day activities.
During their visit this week the crew reviewed the hardware that they will carry to the International Space Station, this includes much-needed spare parts and a cargo module which will now be permanently affixed to the orbiting laboratory. The crew also paid a visit to Discovery to look over several of the shuttle's key systems including its payload bay, thermal protection system (TPS) and the orbiter's crew cabin.
In the engine shop at Kennedy Space Center, shuttle Discovery's STS-133 crew listen to a technician describe the components of a shuttle main engine. Pictured are Mission Specialist Alvin Drew (left); Commander Steve Lindsey and Mission Specialist Michael Barratt. Mission Specialists Tim Kopra, Nicole Stott and Pilot Eric Boe are partially obscured. The crew was at Kennedy for the Crew Equipment Interface Test, or CEIT. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
From a Melbourne Classroom - to the International Space Station
It is a long way from a Melbourne High School science room to the International Space Station (ISS) but Joseph Acaba will be making a second and longer stay to the station in April of 2012. He will blast off atop a Soyuz rocket for a six-month stay. Accompanying him on this expedition will be veteran cosmonaut and space station commander Gennady Padalka and cosmonaut Konstantin Valkov.
This will mark the second time that Acaba will travel to the ISS. The first time was on March 15, 2009 aboard the space shuttle Discovery with the STS-119 mission. The primary objective of this flight was to deliver the final pair of power-generating solar arrays and a truss element to the ISS. Acaba completed two spacewalks during this mission.
Acaba is a former local teacher who taught science at Melbourne High from 1999 until 2000. He was selected as an astronaut in 2004 along with fellow "educator-astronauts" Ricky Arnold and Dottie Metcalf-Lindeburger.
Standing beside a T-38 Talon, "educator-astronaut" Joseph Acaba poses before his first flight into space STS-119. It was announced this week that Acaba will fly into space again, this time aboard a Soyuz rocket. Image courtesy of NASA
Space Launch Complex 46 Approved for Launches by FAA
Space Florida has gained approval of its Launch Site Operator's License by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This means the state agency can now seek out customers looking to launch from its Space Launch Complex (SLC) 46, located at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A press release issued by Space Florida states that the complex can be ready for use within a year.
Space Florida has been actively pursuing ways to employ the estimated 8,000 employees that face unemployment when the space shuttles are retired next year. Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announced earlier this year that they would re-release the Athena rocket - with Florida as a potential launch site. SLC-46 was last used in 1999 to launch the RocSat-1 atop the Athena rocket. It is therefore possible that there could be a reunion of rocket and launch site in the near future.
Space Launch Complex 46 has been cleared to accept commercial launchers by the Federal Aviation Administration. Space Florida will now seek out customers to use the complex to launch payloads into space. Image Credit: Space Florida/Chris Perkins
Senator Nelson Announces that Space Compromise Bill Will Pass Next Week
Florida Senator Bill Nelson announced on July 9 that a bill currently in the Senate that seeks a compromise between President Obama's plan for NASA and the space agency's prior direction - would pass. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 will be discussed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 15. If approved, it would over turn several of the president's proposals laid out in the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget released in February of this year.
The White House's announcement that all elements of the Constellation Program would be cancelled created a bipartisan outcry which caused the president to visit Kennedy Space Center this past April to explain his position and announce that he would allow a stripped-down version of the Constellation Program's Orion capsule to be produced.
In this new bill, an additional shuttle flight would be approved. The development of a shuttle-derived heavy-lift rocket (under the current proposal a heavy-lift rocket would not be selected until 2015) - would be placed on the fast track. The International Space Station would have its operational life extended until 2020. Lastly, Orion - would be returned to full strength.
According to Nelson, the bill would match the president's $19 billion request for the agency. The heavy-lift rocket would serve as a back-up to the proposed commercial rockets that the president has stated his preference to. It would also require these commercial firms to demonstrate the viability of their technology before they receive government contracts.
Nelson stated that a number of senators were coming together in support of this bill and that it would likely pass. The bill would first have to be approved by appropriations and then be matched by a House bill before becoming law. Nelson has been working toward a balanced plan for the space program ever since the release of the FY 2011 Budget.
United Space Alliance announces More Layoffs
United Space Alliance (USA) announced on July 6 that it would lay off 1,000 workers from its Texas, Alabama and Florida locations on Oct. 1. This constitutes almost one-fifth of the shuttle workers that are currently employed by the space firm. With only two shuttle flights remaining, the company is scaling back its operations. The numbers of those impacted from state-to-state vary dramatically.
In Florida some 800 to 1,000 workers will be affected with 300-400 in Texas and about 10 in Alabama expected to receive pink slips in the fall.
All of the employees that are laid off will receive severance packages along with assistance in developing their resumes and other career-transition assistance. Kennedy Space Center is expected to lose some 8,000 jobs with a total of 15,000 jobs lost nation-wide when the shuttles are retired. There are currently only two shuttle flights remaining, STS-133 scheduled to launch on November 1 and STS-134 which is slated to blast off on February, 26 2011.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.