Kennedy Space Center damage estimate updated
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: September 7, 2004
The Kennedy Space Center, reeling from widespread wind and water damage caused by Hurricane Frances, will remain closed to normal work until Monday at the earliest while engineers complete a detailed damage assessment.
"That concerns us a lot," he said. "The facilities engineering people today don't think that between now and the possible arrival of (Hurricane) Ivan as early as next Saturday there is anything they can do to plug those holes.
"So we will probably be, for the next period of time, including Ivan if she comes ashore, sitting there with an open window to the world in the VAB."
The sides of the building were not the only sites of damage. A 30-member team inspecting the roof of the cavernous structure had to beat a hasty retreat when they discovered "it was very insecure," Kennedy said.
"It was soggy, it was weak and they did not want to run the risk of falling through the roof of the VAB," he told reporters.
Netting is being strung up inside the building just below the roof to catch any debris that might fall until repairs can be made.
"Our shuttle TPS facility was hit hard," Kennedy said. "It makes the thermal protection system tiles and blankets and that facility has what I would estimate at about 25 percent of its roof ripped off. This is very critical to any kind of a schedule we might hope to achieve on shuttle. The tile production, the TPS production was on the critical path."
NASA managers are looking into whether the work can be temporarily moved to Palmdale, Calif., where the shuttle fleet was built, or possibly to Houston until the building can be rebuilt.
Loss of the tile facility alone could hamper NASA plans for launching the shuttle Discovery next March on the first post-Columbia shuttle mission.
Many observers believed that date was going to be difficult to meet even before Frances struck, because of technical issues associated with implementing safety upgrades. Little reserve time was left in the processing schedule and it's not yet clear how repairs to the VAB and the tile facility might affect that work.
Kennedy declined to speculate.
"I'm not going to estimate when we might return to flight," he said. "It's very much to be determined, the impact that the facility damage will have on our ability to return to flight. We'll be working with the shuttle program people over the coming weeks to help assess that."
While damage to the VAB and the tile facility were the focus of attention today, other facilities suffered as well. A three-story computer facility near the VAB and orbiter processing facilities lost a large portion of its roof, but computer hardware on the third floor had been covered last week and appears to have survived intact.
"The truth of the matter is many, many buildings have siding and roofing damage, water leaking situations and there's going to be an awful lot of work to repair the damage that's been done," Kennedy said.
Even so, he was relieved the damage wasn't more extensive. Last week, Kennedy was worried that Frances, then a category 3 hurricane, could make a direct hit on the space center.
"We are very fortunate to have had the limited damage that we've experienced from hurricane Frances," he said today. "There was a time a week ago when some of us worried about the future of human spaceflight, at least, with the potential of the loss of orbiter vehicles, with the loss of international space station hardware.
"I'm proud to tell you that although we've had some minor issues with hardware, the hardware being processed for the shuttle and the station is secure and in good shape."
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