Three, two, one, and we have liftoff...as the Space Shuttle heads for Earth orbit from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, America's premier spaceport. On April 19, 2001, Kennedy celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first Shuttle launch with the launch of STS-100 on Endeavour. During the past 20 years, the Shuttle has transported approximately three million pounds of cargo, and hundreds of astronauts have had the unique privilege of traveling aboard this unrivaled space vehicle. At the same time, more than 100 modifications have been made to make the Shuttle safer and more efficient and reliable, as well as to expand its capabilities. Shuttle upgrades include a "glass cockpit," composed of 11 new, full-color, flat-panel displays on the flight deck; a relocated airlock to prepare for International Space Station (ISS) assembly flights; an updated communications system; and better protection elements for the orbiter's cooling system.
Weather is very important to the Shuttle program. Because Florida is known as "the lightning capital of the U.S.," lightning detection systems play an important role at Kennedy. A technology that determines the ground strike point of lightning in the immediate vicinity of the shuttle launch pads is valuable in determining which electronic equipment or system needs to be retested following a lightning strike. The lightning detector technology has commercial potential in sensitive manufacturing facilities, missile storage facilities, or hazardous chemical storage bunkers.
As NASA's designated Center of Excellence in launch and payload processing systems, Kennedy's primary responsibilities include Space Shuttle processing, the acquisition and management of Expendable Launch Vehicle launch services, payload carriers, payload processing, and support. Kennedy's Spaceport Technology Center (STC) initiative is an evolving component of Kennedy's dual mission in Space Launch Operations and Spaceport and Range Technologies. The STC is designed to align and enhance existing Kennedy technology development product lines with the needs of current and future reusable and expendable space transportation systems and their payloads. Kennedy has established unique development capabilities (personnel and laboratory/test bed facilities) for collaborative technology development efforts in several technology thrust areas called spaceport technology development initiatives (STDIs). The STDIs are: fluid system technologies, spaceport structures and materials, process engineering, range technologies, and command, control, and monitoring technologies. Kennedy also has product lines for "spaceport design and systems development," which test and integrate an array of component technologies in order to build and deploy an operational spaceport system. Kennedy's complementary advanced spaceport technologies and systems will benefit current and future spaceports on Earth and beyond.
An ongoing project at Kennedy is a study of the extent to which electrostatic charge can be generated and how it can accumulate on lunar soil and dust particles. The findings of this research will provide critical information and techniques for the successful operation of an extraterrestrial spaceport by eliminating potential hazards relating to dust accumulation on equipment surfaces, astronaut suits, solar panels, habitat filters, thermal radiators, and other equipment. Dust accumulation could lead to a loss in performance, or even render equipment unusable. Commercial applications may be found in the antistatic, paint, and grain industries.
A technology has been developed at Kennedy that may be beneficial to ISS and other Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) vehicles such as the Space Shuttle, as well as long-duration interplanetary vehicles and future planetary habitats. The personal cabin pressure monitor warns, by means of audio, vibratory, and visual alarms, of the impending danger of hypoxia when cabin pressure has fallen to pre-programmed threshold levels. This device can also be used in a variety of aviation, aerospace, and non-aerospace applications where knowledge of one's exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen is important.
As we move into the 21st century, Kennedy Space Center faces many challenges. The strategic goals, vision, and guiding principles developed at Kennedy mirror the dedication, excellence, and integrity of investing in America's future through continued space exploration.
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