Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NASA Plans Demolition of Hangar S

Click the arrow to watch the Florida Today video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Florida Today reports the historic Hangar S at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been scheduled for demolition.

“Unfortunately, there are some buildings that aren’t sustainable anymore, some that we can’t really afford to maintain,” said Tom Engler, deputy manager of the Center Planning and Development Office at KSC.

“This is a 60-plus-year-old building. It has a lot of maintenance issues, and it’s actually beneficial to the center to put them on the abandon list and then eventually demolish them because they are too expensive for us to maintain.”

The annual operating cost at Hangar S: $148,000.

Below is a YouTube video of President John F. Kennedy and astronaut John Glenn at Hangar S on February 23, 1962.

Click the arrow to watch the video.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Using the ISS

Click the arrow to watch the video. The event ran one hour forty minutes.

The Senate Committee on Science, Space and Transportation held a meeting on July 25 titled, "The International Space Station: A Platform for Research, Collaboration, and Discovery."

Although the committee has 25 members only four attended — Bill Nelson (D-FL), John Boozman (R-AR), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Nelson, Rubio and Hutchison represent states with space centers and NASA contractors.

Aviation Week reported on the event:

Don Pettit, who returned from his second stint on the ISS July 1 after 193 days in orbit, says U.S.-side crewmembers are averaging about 6.5 hr. per day of research time. Overall the U.S.-side crew is posting 35 hr. per week of research as counted by NASA’s ISS program office at Johnson Space Center.

“Currently crewmembers are working 13 or 14 hours a day, and out of that we can get about 6.5 hours of mission programmatic work done,” Pettit told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation July 25. “That’s because we’re in a harsh frontier, and we spend 13 or 14 hours a day just to keep the machinery going and keep it possible for human beings to be there. You’ll find this is commensurate with other frontiers that are harsh on the surface of Earth.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Another prescribed burn was held today at Kennedy Space Center, in the general vicinity of Launch Complex 39-B and its crawlerway. Below are photos.

The morning prescribed burn as seen from the Vehicle Assembly Building north door. That's the Space Launch System mobile launcher in the foreground.

The prescribed burn beyond LC-39B as viewed from Universal Camera Site 7 on the Cape Road.

The burn as seen from the entrance to LC-39B.

The burn as viewed from the "Y" from Saturn Causeway to the two LC-39 launch pads.

In the afternoon, another prescribed burn, this time along the LC-39B causeway. This photo was taken from Universal Camera Site 7. Note the VAB in the distance on the left.

The afternoon burn as viewed from the parking lot just outside the LC-39B gate.

Along the LC-39B causeway. The fires were near the liquid nitrogen pipeline.

The only "smoke and fire" today at Kennedy Space Center.

UPDATE July 30, 2012 — Another prescribed burn was conducted on July 28. Below are photos of the smoke column as seen from the KSC Visitor Complex.

XCOR Heads for KSC

Click the icon to watch the Florida Today video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Florida Today reports that "Brevard County commissioners approved $182,400 in incentives to help persuade rocket maker XCOR Aerospace Inc., to open a manufacturing and operations center at Kennedy Space Center, a project the company said would create 152 jobs."

In a presentation prepared for delivery at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, XCOR indicated that the potential Florida operation would be at KSC and its shuttle landing facility.

The project would include hangar and flight operations, vehicle manufacturing, engine assembly and space tourism elements.

In a previous article, Florida Today reported on how KSC continues to attract commercial space businesses.

“It’s pay for performance. It’s supporting a company that brings jobs,” Rob Salonen, business development director for the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, said Monday. “I think it sends another signal that the Space Coast is open for commercial space.”

XCOR is developing an line of reusable rocket engines and has designed a suborbital aircraft that could ferry space tourists from Kennedy Space Center.

“When it comes to commercial space (travel), it’s going to be a great operation base for anyone who flies from there,” said Nelson. “The Space Coast has one of the premier work forces when it comes to aerospace and they certainly have one of the premier launch sites.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Posey Repeats False China Claims

Florida Today on July 22 published an interview with Space Coast Representative Bill Posey.

In the interview, Posey repeated nonsensical claims he'd made in the past that China intends to colonize the Moon as a military threat.

The moon, first and primarily, is the military high ground. We know the Russians want to colonize the moon. The Chinese are going to colonize the moon — they’ve said so.

Posey's official biography indicates no military experience, or any reason to think he understands anything about military strategy.

I've submitted to Florida Today a letter to the editor in response to Posey's claims. The text is below.

In his July 23 column, Matt Reed repeated a claim by Rep. Bill Posey that, "The Chinese are going to colonize the moon — they’ve said so."

Posey has claimed this many times, but never offered any proof.

China has said time and again they might build a modest space station by the end of the decade.

In their most recent space policy white paper, China said that they will "conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing."

That's a far cry from a Moon colony.

Posey has claimed that the Moon is "a military high ground," an absurd notion. It would be much easier to attack the U.S. from off our shores than spending hundreds of billions of dollars to station missiles 240,000 miles away.

And how stupid it would be for China to destroy a nation that owes them $1 trillion. That would collapse the Chinese economy.

Posey may claim to be a fiscal conservative, but blowing the federal budget to station soldiers in a lunar fortress shows he's totally irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.

Mr. Posey, it's time that you start providing evidence to back up your claims.

And for those of us in the reality-based world, it's time for us to call on the carpet a demagogue who makes absurd claims trying to frighten people into keeping him in power.

UPDATE July 26, 2012Florida Today published my letter today.

Space Loses Sally Ride

Click the arrow to watch a 1980 interview with Dr. Sally Ride. Three years later, she would become the first American woman in space.

The space world lost Sally Ride today. She passed away at age 61 from pancreatic cancer.

For most of us, she will be remembered as the first U.S. woman to fly into space. That was aboard STS-7 in June 1983.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver offered their thoughts on Sally Ride's passing.

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."

“Sally was a personal and professional role model to me and thousands of women around the world,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. “Her spirit and determination will continue to be an inspiration for women everywhere.”

In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science to develop and provide classroom materials, programs and professional development opportunities for educators. Below is a promotional video posted in September 2011 by Sally Ride Science.

Click the arrow to watch the Sally Ride Science promotional video.

UPDATE July 24, 2012 — Ride was a member of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, commonly known as the Augustine Committee. The committee's report was the foundation for the Obama Administration's decision to propose cancellation of the Constellation program and replace it with today's approach to fully exploit the International Space Station by access with commercial cargo and crew vehicles.

Ride delivered the report titled, "Scenario Affordability Analysis" which concluded that NASA's current course with Constellation was not sustainable. You can watch her report below.

Click the arrow to watch Sally Ride's presentation to the Augustine Committee on August 12, 2009.

UPDATE July 25, 2012PBS Newshour looks at the career of Sally Ride.

Watch Sally Ride, 61, Left Major Imprint on Space Program on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Big Challenge

Click the arrow to watch the video.

The Big Challenge is a 27-minute documentary produced in 1966 about the construction of Kennedy Space Center. Presented by NASA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it was produced by the Technicolor Corporation of America.

I just uploaded a copy of this documentary to YouTube. The quality isn't very good, but you get what you pay for.

I've seen a color version in much better condition, but the owner wants serious dollars for a copy so the above is the best available for now.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Closer and Closer

The infamous Slidewire Termination Facility that could be used by astronauts to escape the launch pad during an emergency. The bunker can hold up to 28 people. All photos credit: SpaceKSC.com.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has announced that starting July 20 they will begin tours of Launch Complex 39-A.

According to a KSCVC press release:

For the first time in the 50-year history of Kennedy Space Center, NASA on Friday will begin allowing public visitors to tour one of the launch pads from which the space shuttles and Apollo Saturn V moon rockets were launched.

The KSC Up-Close: Launch Pad Tour, the latest to open of three special Kennedy Space Center 50th anniversary rare-access tours, takes visitors from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex inside the highly secure Launch Complex 39.

Guided by a knowledgeable space expert, visitors will travel nearly a quarter-mile inside the perimeter security fence to Launch Pad 39-A, from which a majority of space shuttles and all six Apollo missions that landed on the moon were launched. Near the launch pad, visitors will exit the tour bus for photo opportunities, including close views of the 350-foot-high fixed service structure, rotating service structure, propellant storage containers, water tanks that feed the noise suppression system, flame trench and other aspects of the launch pad complex.

“Visitors will travel the same route as astronauts to the launch pad, so they can imagine being an astronaut,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “You’re going to be close to where history has been made and will be made in the future with new programs currently under development for space exploration.”

“The launch pad is the last place that I was on Earth before reaching the heavens,” said former space shuttle astronaut Jon McBride. “You can walk in my shoes.”

The tour then drives by for views of Launch Pad 39-B, site of launches for the Saturn 1B/Skylab missions and of many space shuttle launches. It is now being modernized for launching NASA’s new Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket for future missions to carry astronauts in the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle into deep space. NASA is also preparing Kennedy Space Center to accommodate commercial spacecraft and launch vehicles.

The Launch Pad Tour will run through the end of 2012 with a limited number of daily tours.

I was invited on a test-run of the tour. Below are some photos I shot with my dinky cameraphone through the tour bus window.

Former KSC Director Passes Away

Click the arrow to watch a Florida Today June 2012 interview with Forrest McCartney. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Florida Today reports that former Kennedy Space Center Director Forrest McCartney passed away Tuesday at age 81.

A strong, personable leader, McCartney, a longtime resident of Indian Harbour Beach, played a huge role in rebuilding the shuttle program after the Challenger disaster. His leadership paved the way to the successful launches of critical national security satellites, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Magellan Venus radar mapper, the Galileo Jupiter probe, the Ulysses solar explorer and, ultimately, the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued a statement offering condolences on McCartney's passing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Expedition 32 Prepares for Launch

Click the arrow to watch Baikonur prepare to launch the Expedition 32 crew.

The three new Expedition 32 crew members are scheduled to launch tonight for the International Space Station. Launch time is 10:40 PM EDT, 8:40 AM on Sunday in Kazakhstan.

The crew members are Sunita Williams from the United States, Aki Hoshide from Japan, and Yuri Malenchenko from Russia.

Click here for NASA's official Expedition 32 home page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Suborbital Aerospace Company Coming to Titusville

Click the arrow to watch the Florida Today video about today's media event.

Florida Today reports that the mysterious aerospace firm courted by Titusville officials in recent months is Utah-based Rocket Crafters.

Click here to visit the Rocket Crafters web site.

According to their web site, Rocket Crafters seems to be interested primarily in courting military customers. (Boldfaced emphasis in the original.)

Rocket Crafters, Inc. (“Rocket Crafters” or “RCI”) was founded in November 2010 to develop and commercialize a family of synergistic and interrelated aerospace products for the Commercial Space and Military Rocket & Guided Missile markets.

Our D-DART™ next-generation hybrid rocket motors represent the centerpiece of our planned product offering. Our rocket propulsion systems are being developed and engineered for integration with a broad-range of rockets, missiles, launch vehicles, and spacecraft. Our rocket propulsion systems are throttle capable, volume producible, affordable, consistent burning, high-performing, cluster-capable, and safe to manufacture, transport, and operate. The competitive advantages of our revolutionary hybrid rocket motor technology have been validated through a series of ground-based hot fire tests.

Today, we are developing a family of industry disruptive products of unprecedented value and safety. In addition to rocket motors, we are developing propellant production and supply services to support hybrid rocket powered vehicle operators and rocket powered trainers – dual propulsion jet/rocket aircraft and suborbital spacecraft to train a new generation of astronauts and spacecraft command pilots.

Our Defense Systems Group markets military variants of our products to the U.S. Department of Defense, and (subject to ITAR restrictions) to allied foreign military organizations.

The Spacecraft page on the site shows this image and text:

Our newly formed Spacecraft Division has embarked upon an exciting development program. Privately funded, our planned dual propulsion – jet and hybrid rocket powered trainers will create the world’s first opportunity for civilian pilots to get stick-n-rudder training in high-performance rocket powered aircraft and suborbital capable spaceplanes.

We plan to introduce a primary level trainer capable of teaching conventional-to-rocket powered flight transition before the end of 2012 and begin delivery of these exciting new jet/rocket powered aircraft to flight schools and aviation colleges beginning in 2013. Much of the design/engineering for our advanced sub-orbit capable spaceplane has been completed. We anticipate first flight sometime before the end of 2014.

Happy Birthday Telstar

Click the arrow to watch a July 1962 newsreel about the Telstar 1 launch. Video source; AirBoyd.TV via YouTube.

Fifty years ago today, on July 10, 1962, the first satellite to relay television signals through space was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Called Telstar 1, the satellite launched aboard a Thor-Delta at Launch Complex 17B.

A July 1963 edition of the Bell System Technical Journal documented the technical details of Telstar 1. Click here to download "Launching of the Telstar Satellite."

Click the arrow to watch a 1962 Bell Labs documentary about Telstar. Video source: ATTTechChannel via YouTube.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A New Gateway to Space

Click the arrow to watch the video.

NASA posted on July 6 the above video that's an update on all the work under way at Kennedy Space Center to prepare for the new programs.

It's a great video to share with people who falsely claim the space program is over and Kennedy Space Center is shutting down.

Light the Candle

Grand Finale 2010-11 from McLean Fahnestock on Vimeo.

Click the arrow to watch the video.

Watch all 135 Space Shuttle launches at once.

Turn up your volume.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The All-Star Team

Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is scheduled for July 10 at Kansas City.

Human spaceflight's All-Star team will appear the next day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

KSCVC has announced that seven astronauts will appear in the Astronaut Encounter theater to discuss the topic, "Astronauts Speak Out on the Future of Human Spaceflight."

The astronauts are:

  • Kent Rominger — STS-73, STS-80, STS-85, STS-96 and STS-100 crews.
  • Jim Voss — STS-44, STS-53, STS-69, STS-101 and Expedition 2 crews.
  • Nicole Stott — Expedition 20, Expedition 21, STS-128 and STS-129 crews.
  • Winston Scott — STS-72 and STS-87 crews.
  • Chiaki Mukai (Japan) — STS-65 and STS-95 crews.
  • Garrett Reisman — Expedition 16 , Expedition 17, STS-123 and STS-124 crews.
  • Ken Bowersox — STS-50, STS-61, STS-73, STS-82 and Expedition-6 crews.

Four-time astronaut and KSC center director Robert Cabana will be the moderator.

Four of these astronauts are working for commercial crew participants.

Kent Rominger is ATK vice president and program manager for Liberty.

Jim Voss is a director for advanced programs for Sierra Nevada.

Garrett Reisman is a senior engineer for SpaceX.

Ken Bowersox recently joined ATK's independent assessment team for Liberty.

The event is included with admission that day to the Visitor Complex.

UPDATE July 14, 2012 — Below is a video of the event.

Click the arrow to watch the video.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The X-37B OTV-1 after landing at Vanderberg Air Force Base on December 3, 2010. Original image source: U.S. Air Force.

Last November, Florida Today reported that NASA had agreed through Space Florida to lease Orbiter Processing Facility 1 to an unnamed tenant.

NASA plans to move out of a second shuttle hangar at Kennedy Space Center by next summer so an undisclosed commercial user can move in.

The program readying retired shuttle orbiters for museum display has agreed to vacate Orbiter Processing Facility-1 by Aug. 1, about six months ahead of schedule, said Candrea Thomas, KSC spokeswoman.

The hangar is located across the street from one where The Boeing Co. recently announced it would locate manufacturing and assembly of a capsule for commercial astronauts flights, work that could create 550 jobs by 2015.

Since then, no one has gone on record as to who the tenant will be.

The rumor mill consensus remains that it will be the U.S. Air Force X-37B unmanned spacecraft. The X-37B has launched twice from Cape Canveral Air Force Station atop an Atlas V at Launch Complex 41, and landed both times at Vandenberg AFB. The USAF has two X-37Bs; each has flown once.

It's unclear, though, why the USAF would store the X-37B in OPF-1. Sure, the hangar was built to service an orbital spaceplane — the Space Shuttle orbiter. But would the Air Force want to expose the X-37B to public view at Kennedy Space Center, alongside a road frequented by NASA employees and contractors and by tourists on bus tours? The X-37B would have to be towed along Saturn Causeway to the Cape Road so it could be stacked atop the Atlas V on LC-41. It would seem to make more sense to keep it at the secure CCAFS.

If it's not the X-37B, then who is it?

An artist's concept of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser atop the Atlas V. Image source: Sierra Nevada Corporation.

I speculated in that November post that it might be the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser, an orbital spaceplane that's one of the entrants in NASA's commercial crew competition. NASA issued a press release in July 2011 announcing that it had entered into an agreement with SNC "to offer technical capabilities from the center's uniquely skilled work force."

A July 2, 2012 Aviation Week article about Dream Chaser had this passage near the end:

Operational flights will originate at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., where the company has selected a surplus facility at the Kennedy Space Center for vehicle processing. Normally it will return to the shuttle landing strip on KSC, although Sirangelo says it can land elsewhere and return to Florida as airfreight.

The "surplus facility" wasn't named, but once the orbiters depart for museums the OPFs are most definitely a "surplus facility."

I'm going to add another possible candidate to the mix.

The ATK/Astrium Liberty.

Up until recently, I don't think many observers took Liberty seriously.

The ATK/Astrium partnership was announced in February 2011, shortly after Congress voted to accept the Obama administration's proposal to cancel the Constellation program. The Ares I vehicle that was part of Constellation was going to have a first stage based on the Space Shuttle's solid rocket boosters. Liberty uses the same booster technology, but instead of the Boeing second stage for Constellation the Liberty would use the core stage of an Ariane V. Many observers assumed this was a desperate attempt by ATK to perpetuate its SRB technology.

But ATK persisted.

In September 2011, NASA and ATK entered into an unfunded Space Act agreement. This basically meant that NASA would advise ATK on Liberty design but the vehicle would not be eligible for any commercial crew awards.

On May 9, ATK announced a deal to use a composite crew module designed by Lockheed Martin that had been rejected years ago by NASA in favor of the Orion capsule now part of the Space Launch System.

An artist's concept of the Liberty composite capsule arriving at the International Space Station with a cargo module. Image source: ATK.

And on July 3, ATK announced that it would use a version of NASA's Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to provide a cargo delivery system to the ISS:

ATK (NYSE: ATK), the company leading development of the Liberty commercial spacecraft, is pleased to announce an expanded crew and cargo capability. The extended cargo configuration will allow the Liberty spacecraft to take full advantage of the launch vehicle lift capacity to transport a pressurized pod (the Liberty Logistics Module or LLM) along with the composite crew module. Based on NASA's 15-foot diameter Multi-Purpose Logistic Module design, the LLM will include a common berthing mechanism and will be capable of transporting up to 5,100 pounds of pressurized cargo. With that capability, the LLM could be used to transport four full-size science racks to the International Space Station – along with a team of scientists to perform the associated science.

ATK has aggressively developed a complete commercial delivery system, at least on paper.

The only unannounced element is ... Where would all this be processed at Kennedy Space Center?

An artist's concept of Liberty rolling out to LC-39B. Original image source: ATK.

Original artist concepts of Liberty showed it being transported on the old Ares I mobile launcher to KSC's Launch Complex 39B. That suggests it would be assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building.

What's next to the VAB? Orbiter Processing Facility 1.

The Ares mobile launcher will be modified for Space Launch System, so it won't be available for Liberty. In a recent online chat on Twitter, an ATK representative wrote that ATK might take one of the three existing mobile launch platforms and place a tower on it for Liberty. Those mobile launchers are stored in the VAB or outside near the transporter-crawlers.

So if ATK and its partners intend to offer NASA a turnkey system, it makes sense they would lease one of the OPFs next to the VAB.

Commercial crew competitors submitted their proposals to NASA on March 23, in a new round known as Commercical Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap). NASA has not disclosed the participants, much less their bids. According to TPM, a NASA spokesperson said, "The program is currently in a blackout period and we cannot discuss who has applied."

NASA is expected to announce the CCiCap winners later this month. Administrator Charlie Bolden traded letters in June with House Appropriations science subcommittee chair Frank Wolf agreeing that NASA would give two full awards and one half-award.

NASASpaceFlight.com reports that "some NASA sources claim Liberty is actually becoming a favorite option of some high ranking Agency managers." The article notes:

Liberty is the only commercial vehicle that will launch from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) – a major plus point, per NASA’s intentions of converting the Florida launch site into an active 21st Century spaceport, launching not just the Space Launch System (SLS), but also commercial vehicles from its “clean pad” at 39B, before potentially including 39A – currently a mothballed “Shuttle Pad”.

My main skepticism with Liberty is that it would be the only crewed vehicle in history with a solid-fueled first stage. All crewed vehicles have used liquid fuel so they can be lit and tested before launch. With the Space Shuttle, the three main engines were fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. They were lit 6.6 seconds before launch, and could be cut off if a problem was detected — which happened five times during the Shuttle program.

With a solid-propellant first stage, once it's lit there's no way to turn it off, nor can it be throttled. That's why all three nations that have launched crews have always used liquid-fueled first stages. The Shuttle's SRBs were lit at T-0 and burned for about two minutes before separating from the external tank.

This will be a very historic month, as NASA will announce who will manufacture the nation's next crew ships. ATK and its partners have presented NASA with a complete system — on paper — that makes use of existing architectures. The only missing part is a KSC processing facility. Come August 1, when the new neighbors move into OPF-1, we'll find out if it's ATK.

UPDATE July 6, 2012 — Space policy analyst Jeff Foust comments on ATK's recent announcements over on the NewSpace Journal.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

Click the arrow to watch the Florida Today report on Monday's media event. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Florida Today reports that NASA held a major event Monday at Kennedy Space Center's Operations & Checkout building to promote the arrival of components for the first Orion capsule test flight in 2014.

NASA offered a peek at the future of Kennedy Space Center on Monday, unveiling the first space-bound Orion spacecraft while marking a huge economic development victory for Florida and the Space Coast.

“This is a milestone moment for the Space Coast, NASA and America’s space program,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told 450 people at a ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the spacecraft.

It’s scheduled to blast off on a test flight in 2014 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket will propel the unmanned spacecraft into an elliptical orbit with a high point of 3,600 miles – 15 times farther from the Earth than the International Space Station.

Left unsaid is just what the spacecraft will be used for.

Orion and the Space Launch System that will launch it later in the decade still have no missions or destinations.

On paper, SLS has only two planned flights — an unmanned test flight by the end of 2017 that would circle the Moon, and an Apollo 8 rerun around 2020 that would send a four-member crew to circle the Moon — but not land.

No one ever discusses what will happen if the 2014 Delta IV test, or the 2017 SLS test, fail to achieve their milestones. Why? There's no funding or authorization from Congress to correct a failure.

But Congress didn't really order SLS in 2010 for exploration. It was to protect jobs at the space centers and with Space Shuttle-era contractors.

The Florida Today article noted how job protection was a theme of yesterday's event.

$35 million state grant enabled Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin to convert an old Apollo processing facility into a new state-of-the-art spacecraft production line.

The company and its subcontractors employ about 300 people at KSC. That number is expected to grew to 350 or 400 by the end of 2013.

“It’s nice to see 350-plus jobs,” said Marshall Heard, a former NASA contractor program manager and an EDC adviser. “It’s nice to see real hardware. It’s great to see exploration getting off the ground, no pun intended.”

Except there's no "exploration" with this program so far.

Click here to read the NASA article on the event.

Click the arrow to watch a NASA video on the 2014 Orion test flight.