Major KSC refurbishment work continuing ahead of SLS and Orion debuts

by Chris Bergin

A significant amount of refurbishment work is taking place at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), as the spaceport prepares to welcome the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) to the world-famous launch site. Work is taking place throughout the center, with the focus on the refurbishment being conducted on SLS’ launch pad, Pad 39B.

KSC Work:

With the Space Shuttle orbiters now in their final phase of preparation for being moved to their retirement homes, the Kennedy Space Center is transitioning towards the new era, with SLS and Orion the centerpieces of the 21st Century spaceport effort.

As previously reported, one of the largest projects involves the revitalization of the KSC Water and Wastewater Systems, which have been in place since the spaceport’s initial construction, back during the drive towards the Apollo moon missions.

The work – contracted to Speegle Construction II, Inc – is set to be completed in the Spring of 2013, is currently 15 percent complete, with work stretching from the VAB and Turn Basin area, along the crawlerway, out to both Pad 39A and 39B.

This multi-phased effort will – through various enhancements – improve water quality, reduce water consumption and required flushing, replace or repair aging pipes that are susceptible to breaks or leaks, and increase overall water and wastewater system reliability.

These systems are vital to operations throughout the center for restrooms, food preparation, fire protection and sound suppression at the launch pads.

“Upcoming activities include continued work to replace water mains, including the 16-inch main along NASA Parkway from Kennedy Parkway to the West of C Avenue, 14-inch main along 5th street from Kennedy Parkway to A Avenue, 10-inch main along E Avenue between 3rd and 5th streets, and installation of new 2- and 4-inch mains in the Fluids Servicing and Propellants North area,” noted the March KSC Construction Presentation (available on L2 – Link to Presentation).

“Construction of a new pump station and ground storage tank west of the Vehicle Assembly Building Utility Annex is well under way. This work will facilitate the demolition of the two elevated potable water storage tanks at KSC.

“Repairs to the sewer mains and manholes have begun, with cleaning and inspection throughout the Industrial Area in preparation for new cured-in-place pipe lining and manhole coatings. New sewer manholes and lift stations have been prefabricated and are arriving on site for replacement at various locations.”

The remaining KSC workforce – heavily depleted since the end of Space Shuttle operations – have been told to watch out for temporary roadway lane and shoulder closures, temporary water outages or reduced water pressure for certain facilities, closed sidewalks or parking lot entrances, increased construction traffic and temporary restroom closures.

Refurbishment of Pad 39B is noticeable even from a distance, as major work is conducted on the historic launch pad, which saw its shuttle assets demolished in order to allow for a “clean pad” for use by the Space Launch System (SLS) – a vehicle that will arrive at the pad complex via the Crawler Transporter and Mobile Launcher (ML).

Work on the giant water tower is now in full swing, ahead of its scheduled completion date of July, 2012.

The scope of work includes repairs to the interior of the 300,000-gallon, 285-foot elevated water tank (constructed in the late 1970s), repairs to the piping system, and sandblasting and recoating of the exterior of the tank, piping and associated supports.

However, work is also taking place on the pad itself, which remains a construction zone with access restricted to official business coordinated through the Pad B Operations Office.

“This project provides for extensive repair work on the 40-year-old launch pad infrastructure to prepare it for future launch activity,” noted the KSC Construction update presentation. “The project focuses on the concrete structures, and includes the following: 
“Repairs to the pad slopes. Repairs to the pad grating and trench system. Construction of water diversion improvements. Repairs to catacomb and high pressure gas area walls and ceilings. Repairs to the flumes that lead to the north holding ponds. Repairs to the wildlife grates. Repairs to the sound suppression water tower.”

Once the work is completed, the SLS ML – formerly the Ares ML – is likely to make a second trip to the pad late in the year, this time completing the Tower Fire Suppression testing, which couldn’t be carried out as planned during the November, 2011 stay at 39B due to a key pump being unavailable for the test.

The pad will then host a test launch in 2014, via the use of an existing Shuttle Mobile Launch Platform (MLP), conducted by a vehicle which can’t be named at this time due to an embargo.

That will be followed by SLS testing in 2015, with preliminary discussions relating to a non-flight “battleship” core – or Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA) – consisting of four engines being sent out to the pad for a “wet” test.

Although the first Orion to launch will ride on a Delta IV-Heavy from next door’s Cape Canaveral in 2014, the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) Orion – currently being constructed at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans – will arrive at the Kennedy Space Center for outfitting.

In preparation for the first flight Orion’s arrival, the Canister Rotation Facility at KSC is now undergoing modification.

“The construction contract to modify the Canister Rotation Facility to support Exploration Flight Test-1 was awarded in December 2011. This project will support assembly, integration and testing of a jettisonable shroud/fairing assembly for an unmanned Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in support of Exploration Flight Test-1,” added the KSC Construction Update presentation.

“The project scope includes upgrades to the facility grounding, as well as minor upgrades to the facility civil, architectural, structural, plumbing, safety and electrical systems.”

Work – being conducted by Canaveral Construction – is scheduled to be completed by July, 2012.

A large amount of additional work is also taking place around the center, including the revitalization of High and Medium Voltage Electrical Distribution System, revitalization of the Central Instrumentation Facility (CIF) roof, the installation of Fire Protection Systems in various locations and the resurfacing of the Operations and Checkout (O&C) parking lot.

(Images via L2 and NASA).

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