Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Progress Happening at NASA KSC with Center Director Bob Cabana

NASA KSC Director Bob Cabana at National Space Club - March 8, 2016

Every year, the National Space Club Florida Committee is honored to hear from NASA Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, also a former astronaut (STS-41, STS-53, STS-65, and STS-88). Today he was back at the luncheon at Cape Canaveral to give us an update on KSC!

No official NASA talk would be complete with the obligatory Journey to Mars mention and chart. Bob didn't harp on it. Instead, he dove right into the meat of his presentation: upgrades and progress at KSC. The big push here over the past few years has been including commercial industry and making infrastructure modifications to become a multi-user spaceport.

One of the exciting pieces of space hardware I got to see last year was the Orion crew capsule for Exploration Mission EM-1 in the O&C building's high bay being worked on by Lockheed Martin. Orion is officially scheduled to launch in fall 2018, but will likely slip. In addition to mentioning Orion, Bob also talked about SpaceX's Dragon crew capsule and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, both currently scheduled for launch in 2017.

Bob also spoke up modifications to the mobile launcher and the crawler transporter. After modifications, this will be the crawler transporter for the next 30 years, he said. He also mentioned that modifications to the Space Launch System (SLS)'s launch pad 39B have been completed. Because SLS is only scheduled to launch at the most once per year, they are seeking additional users for that pad.

Although there are more ULA and SpaceX launches scheduled at the Cape in the next few months, the next NASA Launch Services mission isn't until the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) launches on an Atlas V, currently expected to be in September. I'm excited about this robotic probe mission which will bring back a sample from a carbonaceous asteroid!

NASA and Space Florida recently signed an agreement for Phase B of Exploration Park. For those unfamiliar, the only building currently in Exploration Park is the Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL) where I've coincidentally worked in for three previous jobs or projects. In Phase B, Blue Origin will build a manufacturing plant for its reusable rockets. I was surprised to learn how big this facility will be! According to Bob, it will be seven stories tall and have a bigger footprint than the huge Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at KSC.

Bob spoke a bit about the workforce drop-off after the space shuttle program ended. KSC's NASA workforce is currently stable and predicted to remain approximately constant so long as budgets are relatively constant. He gave an anecdotal story about NASA losing employees to private industry which is ramping up right now.

National Space Club luncheons are always a fun place to catch up with colleagues. Where else can I show off baby photos (the launch photos in my previous blog entry) to the KSC Director, a U.S. Congressman, and so many other space enthusiasts in the room? Bob also graciously gave me a little bit of his time for a 30 second interview (see below): What is your favorite thing happening at KSC in the coming year? Check it out!


  1. Even Bob Cabana bows to your will ... Great job.

    1. Ha! I don't think that's an accurate characterization.

  2. Lots of good information in the PDF of the presentation:


    The slide on Page 32 of KSC Historical Workforce Levels will help to ask a common question I'm asked ... I also remind people we're not an employment agency. Some folks don't want to hear that, but in the real world people aren't given jobs just to have a job. The chart also shows that circa 1977 employment was about where it is now.

    I suspect this doesn't include the employees working for SpaceX at Pad 39A, or anyone working at CCAFS for SpaceX, ULA, Blue Origin, etc.

    1. You found the presentation slides! I'm impressed. There are some good graphics on there.

      The workforce slide only includes NASA contracts, he said. So it wouldn't include SpaceX, Blue, etc.