NASA completes critical design review for Kennedy Space Flight Center overhaul
NASA has completed itscritical design review for the Ground Systems Development andOperations Program (GSDO). The proposed changes to the groundservices at the Kennedy Space Flight Center, Florida, would preparethe site to host NASA's next-generation launch vehicle, which is setto lift off from the site some time in 2018.
For obvious reasons, thedevelopment of cutting-edge rockets and spacecraft garners the vastmajority of media attention in the aerospace sector, leaving the significant investments and design savvy that goes into reforming thearchitecture and practices of the ground-based element of launch systems relatively overlooked.
This is an interestingquirk, as without an upgrade to these vital facilities, mankind'smission to Mars may as well be a doodle on a napkin. NASA is in theprocess of designing and fabricating a vast rocket, known as theSpace Launch System, which upon completion will represent the mostpowerful rocket ever created.
Launching this behemothwould not have been possible under the current launch architecture, so to prepare for the onset of an intensive campaign of launches thatwill eventually take mankind to Mars, NASA has initiated an overhaulof its facilities at the Kennedy Space Flight Center.
The recently completedcritical design review represents a vital step in the redesignprocess, taking the form of an in-depth examination of the proposedalterations to the exiting launch architecture. One of the keyelements of the review included an assessment of the future High Bay3 area of the existing Vehicle Assembly Building, in which the SLSwould be assembled and tested.
Also reviewed were theplans to develop a new mobile launcher, which would be responsiblefor transferring the SLS to its launch pad atop an enormouscrawler-transporter, which is itself an upgrade to aplatform that has been in service since 1965.
"The completion ofthis review represents a critical milestone for the GSDO team thatclearly demonstrates we are on track with the launch site upgradesrequired to support SLS and Orion test, checkout and launch in 2018,"states GSDO program manager Mike Bolger.
Some alterations to theground systems architecture are already taking place. The re-brickingof the flame trench at Pad 39B is currently underway. Thisreinforcement will allow the launch site to better cope with thepunishing force created by the RS-25 engines located atthe base of the SLS rocket. Work has also began on modifying NASA'smobile launch platform, including structural reinforcement, and anenlargement of the exhaust hole at the platform's base.
The next step in thecritical design review process will see the report placed beforesenior agency officials and a further independent review. Once thesesteps are complete, the grounds systems can move in to thefabrication and instillation phase.