NASA, the US’ space agency, has released new details about its plans to convert Kennedy Space Center in Florida into a multi-user spaceport.
Traditionally Kennedy has been the base for only one type of launch system, which was used for spacecraft such as the Saturn V rocket.
However, this overhaul would allow several types of launch systems to operate at the space center, including the new Space Launch System (SLS), meaning a wide variety of spacecraft could be launched from the Florida base, including SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft.
The Kennedy overhaul would provide the ability to significantly further human exploration into space.
“We’ve pushed the boundaries of space exploration for more than 50 years and are making progress getting ready to move the frontier even further into the solar system,” said NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration system development Dan Dumbacher.
The new launch options would, according to a press release from NASA “provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit”.
The agency believes that the updated Spaceport would provide enough flexibility to not only launch both crew and cargo missions, but to reach wider destinations in the solar system, including asteroids and mars.
”The work being done to transform our abilities to prepare and process spacecraft and launch vehicles at Kennedy is a critical piece of our efforts to send astronauts in Orion on top of the Space Launch System to asteroid and ultimately Mars,” added Dumbacher.
The nature of space travel has changed in the last few decades, with private companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX moving in to handle cargo missions and other projects.
We are likely to see a far wider range of destinations and mission types going forwards. Proposed missions using the Space Launch System include a lunar surface mission in the late 2020s, five near-earth asteroid missions and a crewed Mars landing mission slated for 2033 or 2045.
Other proposed missions include the launch of a monolithic telescope, a solar probe mission and a probe mission to Uranus.
While the spaceport plans are still in development, the details released, which are part of the Preliminary Design Review, mark a key stepping stone in the development of Kennedy.
This review has confirmed that the planned architecture is suitable both from a technical standpoint and also in terms of what NASA wants to achieve.
“The preliminary design review is incredibly important, as it must demonstrate the ground systems designs are on track to process and launch the SLS and the Orion from Kennedy,” said GSDO program manager Mike Bolger.
Images courtesy of NASA.