NASA to Transform Kennedy Space Center into Spaceport of the Future

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.

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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.


In Pictures: Nasa want you to pick the next space suit

Update: Nasa has announced that Option B, ‘technology’ has won the contest. 

Space behemoths Nasa want you help to pick the next spacesuit for astronauts and have made the potential options look nothing like the traditional spacesuit.

The three options they’ve presented are radically different to the suits which have been used in the past and even incorporate 3D printing in the production of the suits.

Nasa say the designs are the first surface-specific planetary suit to be tested in a full vacuum, they’re the most  advanced use of impact resistant composite structures on a suit upper and lower torso system.

The design vote for the new prototype suit is the latest of Nasa’s attempts to use members of the public in its work. Most recently the organisation has been asking for people to help them detect asteroids in space.

Here are the three designs:

Option A: Biomimicry

The first choice from Nasa is inspired by another of the human race’s largely unexplored areas – although this is much closer to home. Its design has been based on the world’s oceans and includes segmented pleats at the shoulders.

Nasa says: “Mirroring the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe, this design reflects the qualities that protect some of Earth’s toughest creatures.”

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Option B: Technology’

The second choice put forward by the space organisation was designed by those thinking about past achievements and incorporating elements of the future.

Nasa says: “The design specifically includes electroluminescent wire and patches across the upper and lower torso, exposed rotating bearings, collapsing pleats for mobility and highlighted movement, and abrasion resistant panels on the lower torso.”

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Option C: Trends in Society

The final option presented by Nasa has been designed with the idea of what clothes may look like in the future and has a bright colour scheme which is intended to, in part, mimic the world of wearable technologies.

Nasa say: “The design specifically includes gore pleats with contrast stitching throughout to highlight mobility, an exposed bearing at the hip, and electroluminescent wire and patches of varying styles across both the upper and lower torso.”

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All images courtesy of Nasa.