Editor's Note -- The following has been taken from an update issued this week by NASA:
NASA has battened down the hatches at the Kennedy Space Center as we await high winds and water from Hurricane Floyd. We've done everything possible to protect the valuable national assets we have at KSC. Here's an update on preparations for the storm and other information of interest. Overview
Over the weekend, KSC workers got a head start on implementation of the Center's standard hurricane preparedness plan. By Monday night, we completed all possible steps to protect Space Shuttle flight hardware, payloads, equipment and facilities.
We released KSC employees from work late Monday to allow adequate time for personal hurricane preparation. Employees will remain on administrative leave through Wednesday.
KSC's elevation is approximately nine feet, so we are concerned about both wind damage and water intrusion in the event of a storm surge.
Protecting the Space Shuttle Fleet
Space Shuttle Orbiters Discovery, Endeavour and Columbia remain in Orbiter Processing Facility Bays 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The Orbiter Processing Facility is constructed of concrete and steel and was designed to withstand winds of 105 mph.
We are storing Orbiter Atlantis in the landmark Vehicle Assembly Building, in High Bay 2. The Vehicle Assembly Building is constructed of concrete and steel and was designed to withstand winds of 125 mph.
Other payload and flight hardware support facilities can endure winds of 110 mph.
Launch pads and the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility can withstand 125-mph winds.
On Monday, KSC workers closed the payload bay doors on all orbiters, and retracted the landing gear as part of standard hurricane protection efforts. The orbiters are now resting in their harnesses approximately 10 feet off the ground.
We transported 11 solid rocket booster segments by rail Tallahassee, FL, by railroad; they can be moved further west if necessary.
It would not have been logistically feasible to move the Orbiters from KSC. It takes a few days to mate an orbiter to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and fly it out of the area. The orbiters are in the safest location possible when not on orbit.
Protecting Other Facilities at KSC
KSC workers raised Shuttle and payload test above floor level to avert flood damage. The Rotating Service Structures at Launch Pads 39A and 39B were rotated back to the Fixed Service Structures to maximize their protection from high winds.
In the Space Station Processing Facility, the International Space Station flight hardware is already elevated in test stands; KSC employees also covered the hardware.
In addition to protecting the orbiters and payloads within the facilities, KSC employees secured the buildings themselves. This includes boarding windows, removing or tying down antennas, and sandbagging doors.
Hardware for the next five Space Station flights are at KSC and has been protected. Test equipment is also being elevated and covered.
Hardware and Facilities for the Next Shuttle Missions
The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) payload will ride out the storm in the Space Station Processing Facility high bay inside the payload canister with the doors closed.
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the Hubble Space Telescope flight elements for Space Shuttle Mission STS-103 have been bagged and the test equipment covered.
Who's Left at KSC?
Rideout crews totaling about 120 individuals have been stationed throughout KSC. As of 4:00 pm EDT on Sept. 14 this crew will have been scaled back to approximately 80 people who will move to the Launch Control Center, Space Station Processing Facility, and the astronaut quarters, all of which can sustain 110-mph winds and are not in danger of flooding. Shortly thereafter, all those wishing to leave will have left, and KSC will have been locked down completely with no one entering or exiting the facility.
What About Launch Facilities at Cape Canaveral?
There are no NASA rockets or payloads on the launch pads. The Air Force does have a Delta and a Titan lashed down to the pad, and there are two commercial Atlases at the pad.
NASA budgets $12 million per year for hurricane preparedness at KSC.
The Orbiters are not insured; the government is a self insurer. If something were to happen to an Orbiter, NASA would ask Congress to appropriate funds for replacement, as we after the Challenger accident.
The orbiters have never sustained any hurricane damage.
Approximately 13,000 contractors and NASA employees work at KSC.
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