Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is located on the east coast of Florida, 150 miles south of Jacksonville and approximately 50 miles east of Orlando. It is immediately north and west of Cape Canaveral. The center is about 34 miles long and varies in width from 5 to 10 miles. The total land and water area occupied by the installation is 140,393 acres. Of this area, 84,031 acres is NASA-owned. The remainder is owned by the State of Florida. This
area, with adjoining water bodies, provides sufficient space to afford adequate safety to the surrounding civilian community during launches, landings of other hazardous operations. Agreements have been made with the Department of the Interior regarding the use of
non-operational areas as a wildlife refuge and national seashore on a non-interference basis.
The center was originally created in the early 1960s to serve as the launch site for the Apollo lunar landing missions. After the Apollo program ended in 1972, Kennedy’s Complex 39 was used for the launch of the Skylab spacecraft and later, the Apollo spacecraft for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project.
The center is responsible for the assembly, checkout and launch of Space Shuttle vehicles and their payloads, landing operations and the turn-around of Space Shuttle orbiters between missions, as well as preparation and launch of unmanned vehicles.
Kennedy also is responsible for the operation of the KSC Vandenberg Launch Site Resident Office, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, on the California central coast.
The KSC Vandenberg Launch Site Resident Office serves as the interface with the U.S. Air Force to arrange for base support at Vandenberg of all NASA elements and for VLS and range support of all NASA projects supported by the Resident Office. It supports spacecraft requirements of other NASA centers, commercial and U.S. government agencies not affiliated with the Department of Defense by providing operational and administrative support.
Forrest S. McCartney, Lt. General USAF-Retired, is Director of the Kennedy Space Center.
THE PEOPLE AND FACILITIES OF THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
The Kennedy Space Center, and the people who work there, are a very special type of resource for the United States and the world. The NASA/industry launch teams, and the people who support them, have skills and capabilities found only at the national spaceport.
Every American manned space flight to date was launched by the people of Kennedy. This NASA Center is one of just two places capable of launching Space Shuttle vehicles. The second site, on Vandenberg AFB in California, belongs to the U.S. Air Force, and is
not operational at present. It is being maintained in case it is needed in the future for Space Shuttle polar orbit missions. Over the years the NASA/industry teams have also launched over 300 unmanned space vehicles, primarily Deltas, Atlas-Centaurs, Atlas-Agenas, and Titan-Centaurs. These lifted off from NASA-operated facilities on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg AFB.
Every person who works at the spaceport is a member of the team, even if their jobs are not directly involved with launch operations. Most of the hands-on work is performed by contractors. When fully manned, the Center has a workforce of (in round numbers) about 2,400 NASA civil servants and 13,000 to 14,000 contractor personnel. The largest contractor organization works in the area of Shuttle processing and launch operations, the second largest provides maintenance and support for the Center itself, and the third helps customers prepare their spacecraft and other payloads for launch. Several other contractors provide various operational, support and housekeeping functions.
The operation of the launch and support facilities at Kennedy demands unusual, sometimes unique, personnel skills. But for most NASA and contractor employees, the same knowledge and abilities that serve them here would work equally well in many other places.
Some of the more unusual facilities in which people work are the giant Vehicle Assembly Building, one of the largest enclosed structures in the world; the Orbiter Processing Facility, filled with complicated equipment used to prepare Shuttle orbiters for flight; Pads 39A and 39B, from which Shuttles lift off; Delta and Atlas-Centaur launch complexes on Cape Canaveral; and a host of other processing and support facilities. These include buildings
especially designed for spacecraft assembly and checkout, and others for hazardous work such as installing explosive ordnance and loading propellants.
The heart of the Kennedy Space Center is its engineering work force, both contractor and NASA. People with electrical, mechanical, electronic and computer engineering degrees have the necessary background to begin work here. After that, it may take years to learn some of the more unusual jobs.
Many spaceport professionals deal with more routine matters, such as designing and overseeing the construction of office or supply buildings, setting up and operating computer systems, or performing materials and structures tests.
The engineering departments do their work along with other groups who might be found at any industrial facility. Several logistics organizations order supplies and keep them available in warehouses. Another operates a facility-wide bus system and supplies vehicles for local use. Writing and graphics departments produce a variety of publications. A local printshop prints them. A janitorial force keeps the facilities clean. A guard force provides security. It is the very different nature of the major function of Kennedy — serving as the nation’s spaceport — that makes it such a special place. Watching a rocket blaze a fiery trail into the sky, hearing the thunder of its passage, is a fringe benefit not available at very many workplaces.
A PLACE TO VISIT
Whether it’s the bustle of spaceport activity, the solitude of a nature trail or the unspoiled beauty of a pristine seashore, the Kennedy Space Center offers the visitor a wide variety of things to do and see.
A must stop on anyone’s space itinerary is the Kennedy visitors center, Spaceport USA — a modern, sprawling complex of exhibit halls, theaters and supporting amenities that lure well over two million visitors a year, ranking it among the top tourist attractions in Florida.
Open every day of the year except Christmas, Spaceport USA provides visitors a rare opportunity to experience the sights, sounds, color and drama of America’s role in space.
Indoor and outdoor exhibits and displays feature the spacecraft, the rockets and the programs that have extended our reach beyond the Earth. Dramatic large-screen IMAX movies offer a spectacular view of space as seen by the astronauts. Bus tours of the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral facilities trace the evolution of the nation’s space program from its infancy to the Space Shuttle era.
Educational services are available as well. The Educators Resource Laboratory provides extensive facilities to aid teachers in the preparation of aerospace-related teaching materials. Slides, videotapes and text materials can be copied for use in the classroom.
At the Exploration Station, educational programs and hands-on activities illustrate and explain the principals of rocketry and space science to students of all ages. Students often work with actual hardware used for space missions.
Spaceport USA is located two miles south of Titusville, Florida, off U.S. Highway 1. It is operated under a concessionaire contract, and is entirely self-supporting. Parking and exhibits are available free. Modest fees and admission prices are charged for bus tours and the IMAX movie. Cafeterias and snack shops are available, and gift shops offer a wide range of space memorabilia and souvenirs. Educational services are provided by the Center’s Education Office.
The “other side” of America’s Spaceport is less known, perhaps, but an equally treasured national asset. Under agreements between NASA and the Department of Interior, all but the operational areas of the Kennedy Space Center are designated as a wildlife refuge,
including 25 miles of undeveloped ocean beach that forms the Canaveral National Seashore.
This gentle but untamed land swarms with wildlife. Over 500 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians are found here. Some, like the American bald eagle, woodstork, alligator and the ponderous manatee, or sea cow, are on the endangered or threatened
Recreational activities abound: fresh water and surf fishing, waterfowl hunting in season, birdwatching, swimming at the ocean beaches, canoeing and hiking nature trails.
Most of the refuge and all of the seashore are open to visitors during daylight hours, except when space operations require closure. Seashore headquarters and a refuge visitors center are located several miles east of Titusville, on State Road 402.