ATK To Upgrade Communications at Fla. Launch Site

Space Florida selected ATK to upgrade communications systems at Space Launch Complex 46, a disused facility at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that Space Florida hopes will attract commercial and government business.

The roughly $2.2 million contract runs through Dec. 15, Space Florida spokeswoman Tina Lange said in a Feb. 11 email. The money comes from the Florida Department of Transportation. Procuring new equipment for the upgrade will cost about another $420,000, Lange said.

Space Launch Complex 46 was licensed as a commercial launch facility in 2010 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The last launch from the facility was back in 1999, when the Lockheed Martin-built Athena 1 launched the Taiwanese Earth observation satellite ROCSAT-1.

At least one flight is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 46: an altitude-abort test for the crewed Orion space capsule Lockheed Martin Space Systems is building for future NASA missions to deep space. In this test, scheduled for 2018, Orion’s abort system will be launched by a converted Peacekeeper missile stage provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. The aim is to evaluate whether the capsule’s abort system performs as well in midflight as it did in a 2010 pad test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The launch complex will need some upgrades before it is ready for the test, Lange said in her email. These include “mechanical, structural, and electrical systems refurbishment” and analyses of the launchpad’s flame duct and launch mount to see whether those features require any modification to support the Peacekeeper stage. In cases where required modifications are specific to the Orion test, NASA would foot the bill for the modifications, Lange said.