Expanding technological boundaries and blazing new trails are part of NASA-Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) daily endeavors, and 2003 comprised a full year of these achievements.

The upcoming year is no exception, as KSC will continue demonstrating its leadership. Four expendable launch vehicles (ELV) will launch in 2004. Space Shuttle missions STS-114 and STS-121 are scheduled to launch no earlier than September. Both are International Space Station and developmental missions designed to test new return to flight safety measures.

In June, Center Director Roy D. Bridges Jr., was named director of NASA’s Langley Research Center, effective Aug. 10. James W. Kennedy, an engineer transplant from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and KSC’s deputy director since November 2002, was appointed his successor. Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr., director of Research and Technology at NASA’s Glenn Research Center since 1998, became KSC’s deputy director.

Following the catastrophic February loss of Columbia and the STS-107 crew members, the Center resolved to remedy concerns and excel in exploration. Although KSC’s perseverance was tested in 2003, this year’s exciting milestones confirm that the Center’s excellence prevailed.

“As we celebrate [NASA’s] 45th anniversary, and indeed 2003, we pause to both celebrate the tremendous successes that we have enjoyed as well as to reflect upon the tragic losses that we have all had to endure,” said Center Director Jim Kennedy. “We are an Agency that is literally defined by the highest of our highs… We have had the highest of highs. We have also had to endure the lowest of lows… While we mourn these losses and we are determined to learn from them, we cherish and we will never forget those who gave their lives and we promise to come back smarter, stronger and better than ever before.”


KSC managed seven ELV launches during 2003. These successful missions included the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer (CHIPSat), Jan. 12; the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE), Jan. 25; the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), April 28; two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) – MER-A “Spirit,” June 10, and MER-B “Opportunity,” July 7; the Scientific Satellite Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (SCISAT), Aug. 12; and the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), recently renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope in honor of the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer Jr., Aug. 25. Two of these were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and five from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, adjacent to KSC, Fla.

The single 2003 Space Shuttle mission, STS-107, launched Jan. 16 from Pad 39A. The Extended Duration Orbiter mission was a microgravity research flight. At approximately 9 a.m. EST, Feb. 1, Columbia broke up during re-entry over Texas en route to a 9:16 a.m. landing. This disaster claimed the lives of crew members Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Dave Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Israel’s Ilan Ramon. Despite the devastating accident, several experiment containers survived the fall to earth. Two of the experiments could lead to development of life-saving treatments for cancer and severe lung infections.

Columbia Recovery and Reconstruction

Altogether, there were 870 KSC civil service and contractor employees among the 25,000 personnel who helped with the search and recovery efforts in East Texas. The ground area searched was a corridor 250-miles-long by 10-miles-wide near Lufkin.

The RLV hangar at the Shuttle Landing Facility was chosen to be the staging area for the debris shipped to KSC from the collection point at Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, La. A Columbia Reconstruction Project team was assembled and tasked with identifying the pieces of debris as they arrived and placing them on a grid approximating the shape of the orbiter marked off on the hangar floor. The approximately 150 employees on the team were able to identify 83,013 pieces out of the 83,833 pieces retrieved. At the conclusion of the search, about 38 percent of the dry weight of Columbia had been recovered.

In September, the debris was moved into long-term, accessible storage in the Vehicle Assembly Building. Parts of the orbiter will be made available to scientific, academic and governmental organizations for studies of hypersonic and thermodynamic properties and their affects on spacecraft parts and may assist in the design and flight safety of future spacecraft.

Return to Flight

At year-end, orbiters Atlantis and Discovery were undergoing parallel processing for flight in September 2004. Atlantis is the primary vehicle for the STS-114 launch, a 12-day mission.

Orbiter Major Modifications (OMM) on Discovery concluded during 2003, and in turn, began on orbiter Endeavour. During this planned down time, every aspect of the orbiter — from the wiring, control panels and black boxes to the tubing and components of the gaseous and fluid systems — were examined. These systems were deserviced, disassembled, inspected, modified, reassembled, checked out and reserviced, as were most other systems onboard. A Multifunction Electronic Display Subsystem (MEDS) – a state-of-the-art “glass cockpit” – was installed on Discovery and is scheduled for installation on Endeavour in 2004.

The Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) currently houses eight International Space Station (ISS) elements, in various stages of processing and testing, as NASA looks forward to resuming assembly. Among these are the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM); the U.S. Node 2; the as yet unflown Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Donatello, as well as its companion modules Raffaello and Leonardo; the 12A and 13A element power modules equipped with solar arrays; and various truss hardware.

The Multi-Element Integrated Test (MEIT) of the Node 2 and Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Kibo Pressurized Module was successfully completed in September. Only the third test of its kind to be performed in the SSPF, an international and multi-organizational team was assembled from among the ISS partners. Hardware and software were transported to KSC from other NASA centers, as needed. The test involved connecting cables between the modules to provide electrical power in order to validate the compatibility of the systems. Node 2 testing included emulating the ISS on-orbit configuration, and testing the command and track systems that support the audio and video systems on-orbit and the caution and warning systems that monitor life support systems in the module.

When the Space Shuttle launches again, KSC’s tracking and imaging capabilities on ascent will be improved to conform to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s recommendation R3.4-1. Video camera positions added to the short-range tracking cameras at the launch pads will be increased to six, and continue to be supported by 42 fixed cameras. The five existing medium-range trackers along the coast and at the Shuttle Landing Facility will be increased to seven. The positions of the long-range trackers north and south of the pads have been re-evaluated and will now reach from 38 miles north of the pads at Ponce Inlet to 11 miles south of the pads at Complex 46 on Cape Canaveral.


In 2003, KSC ventured into a number of professional partnerships with various government and industry interests. The following are examples of some of those partnerships.

  • KSC, the Air Force, the Secretary of Defense office and the Federal Aviation Administration addressed space launch needs associated with low-cost, routine and safe space access. As a result, Future Interagency Range and Spaceport Technology Program (FIRST) emerged. FIRST develops key technologies to achieve global, interoperable spaceports and ranges.
  • NASA, Dynamac Corp., Bionetics and University of Florida researchers and scientists moved to the new 100,000-square-foot Space Life Sciences (SLS) Laboratory. This facility serves as a research hub for plant growth experiments, resource recovery and microbiology/microbial ecology studies. Built by the state of Florida and NASA, the laboratory also contains analytical chemistry labs, spaceflight experiment facilities and a flight hardware development growth chamber. It replaces the World War II era Hangar L facility used for life science research and experiments on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
  • KSC, Dynamac Corp., 45th Space Wing, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Marine Fisheries Service developed a passive acoustic monitoring systems prototype. These systems exhibit vital fishery life history activities such as reproduction, as well as human activity. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center and U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center may deploy these technologies for homeland security endeavors.
  • KSC, GeoSyntec Environmental Consultants, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy tested the NASA-developed Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron environmental cleanup technique. This technology uses environmentally friendly oil and water to neutralize contaminating chemicals in ground water.
  • KSC and Phoenix Systems International Inc. developed an application of the Center’s oxidizer scrubber technology for use at coal- and oil-fired electric power plants. The new system should be more cost effective, reduce nitrous oxide emissions and extend the nation’s coal reserves.
  • NASA’s Office of Space Science selected KSC, Cornell University, the Florida Institute of Technology, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Arctic Slope Regional Corp. to develop a Mars dust particle analyzer for future landers or rovers. Meeting stringent size, weight and power guidelines, this miniaturized instrument intends to perform real time, simultaneous measurements of Mars dust particles.

Environmental Leadership

The Merritt Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network won the Federal Energy and Water Management Award. They were chosen by the Department of Energy for their long-term efforts to improve energy efficiency at the Tracking and Data Relay Station. This group saved the Center approximately $100,000 annually in energy bills.

A Florida Power and Light (FPL) alternatively financed project remedied some of the Center’s inefficient energy operations. FPL provided a loan for up-front project costs and KSC uses energy bill savings generated by the project for financing.

A high bay project, in Space Station Processing and Operations and Checkout facilities, produced significant energy savings within its existing operations/maintenance budget. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning system energy costs were reduced to one-tenth previous levels while improving temperature and humidity conditions.

KSC is home to 25 threatened and endangered species, both permanent residents and annual migraters. Efforts to increase population and habitat usage included controlled burning, wetlands enhancement and exotic, invasive plant removals.


This is the fourth consecutive year KSC earned more Space Act Award dollars than any other NASA civil service center. The fiscal year 2003 award amount of $195,700 is proportionately divided among award areas.

Among the 100 inventors, who individually received $500 to $21,000, was NASA retiree and exceptional Space Act Award recipient, Adam Kissiah. He finally received recognition for inventing the cochlear implant 25 years ago, and also received $21,000-the largest award to a single inventor in the Center’s history.

The Technology Commercialization Office received 128 New Technology Reports for innovations developed at the Center, and signed seven license agreements and five Space Act Agreements. The Office also managed 50 Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer contracts valued at $18.1 million. Some examples of these new technical innovations follow.

  • The Signal Conditioning Amplifier Recorder (SCAmpR) provides signal conditioning, amplifying and recording capabilities in a single circuit board. SCAmpR significantly improves reliability, reduces cost and provides more flexibility than pre-existing systems used during Space Shuttle launches.
  • Developed for use around Space Shuttle launch pads, the Multi-Sensor Array pressure transducer records physical phenomena. The technology enables sensors to uniquely monitor their own health and estimate their remaining lifetime.
  • KSC engineers developed a scaling device to assess Space Shuttle external tank damage following hailstorms. Software calibrates a pattern in a photo image to compute the distance scale for the entire image, saving valuable time in establishing and documenting measurements.
  • The Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions reducer used in fossil fuel-burning power plants reduces costs and eliminates hazardous waste streams. This technology could directly apply to the Space Shuttle launch pad NOx scrubbers and Center boiler plants. Participation under this agreement demonstrates NASA’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
  • Due to the Center’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, KSC is a corrosive environment. The corrosion-inhibiting technology-Galvanic Liquid Applied Coating System-slows or stops corrosion of reinforcing steel inside concrete structures, thus protecting launch support structures, highway bridges and buildings.
  • The ultraviolet/infrared hydrogen flame detector reduces false alarms from reflections of a known flame source or from non-flame sources that emit UV, such as lightning or welding arcs.
  • The Advanced Data Acquisition System develops command, control, and monitoring systems to collect data and make command decisions.
  • Free software for researching KSC technologies was made available to the U.S. public online at http://www.openchannelfoundation.org/cosmic/. Each technology’s forum provides outlets for user comments and is monitored by innovators, allowing users direct contact with NASA experts.
  • P.I. EXPERT ensures Shuttle maintenance operations run efficiently. The prototype integrates traditional tools with robust techniques in a user-friendly format. It is a critical technology for businesses restructuring or accelerating operations in order to gain a competitive edge.
  • The Temperature and Moisture Acquisition System (TMAS) measures moisture in small root modules used for plant research in microgravity and provides precise moisture readings. NASA’s Space Station Biological Research Program for Space Station experiments uses TMAS in a budding plant growth facility.
  • The Electronic Portable Information Collection (EPIC) system is the first paperless system used to launch rockets into space. EPIC supported two Atlas V launches recently. The system records and maintains hundreds of mission-critical procedures. To manage those resources, EPIC offers a wireless network that communicates a series of work authorization procedures almost in real time.


KSC also helped implement a new Agency initiative-the NASA Explorer Schools Program. Five KSC regional service area schools are participating to acquire new teaching resources and technology tools for their fifth to eighth grade classes. The Center welcomed 22 Florida and Georgia educators for an intensive, hands-on summer workshop including a Station link-up to interact with the Expedition 7 crew.

Educators and students depend on the Center continuously for on- and off-site space-related workshops that provide curriculum material and classroom techniques. Education hosted approximately 498 K-12 schools, 46,004 K-12 students and 15,406 K-12 teachers. The Education Programs and University Research division supported the development and implementation of NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program. Nearly 9,000 nominations generated from KSC’s service area.

Safety and Health

After two years, KSC became Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) qualified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). VPP ensures continuous safety and health program enhancements, and certification as a “Star” site constitutes recognition as an exemplary safety and health program. At least 78 percent of KSC’s workforce, including two major contractors, is now VPP Star certified. The Center is currently the only VPP qualified federal site in the region (Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama).

KSC not only complied with approximately 500 OSHA requirements, but several areas were also recognized as best industry practices. These included the Center Director’s use of electronic communications to the entire workforce highlighting safety and health aspects such as roles and responsibilities, employee rights such as “stop work authority,” incident and close call reporting, and unannounced monthly workplace inspection results.

OSHA also noted the establishment of “RehabWorks” (an on-site occupational health rehabilitation center), employee VPP awareness and knowledge, the Center’s Employee Safety and Health Pocket Guide, and KSC’s Business World Web site with safety and health links.

KSC’s Occupational Health Program continuously promoted employee wellness with activities such as physical exams, inoculation programs, health education and screening programs, and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The Fitness Centers offered motivational programs such as the President’s Adult Active Lifestyle Award, which promoted physical fitness. Screening programs include cardiovascular disease risk reduction and breast and colorectal cancer screenings. An employee health and fitness day taught employees about community health and wellness programs. Additionally, the workforce can receive free flu shots, as well as counseling services, through the EAP.

In a first-ever comprehensive survey of 100,000 federal government employees on various aspects of job satisfaction conducted by the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation in 2003, NASA ranked first among all federal agencies in several categories related to employee satisfaction. The results reflect the positive attitude of the KSC employees and their belief in the NASA mission. The KSC workforce welcomes the new year with the determination to meet Center Director Kennedy’s challenge to honor the memory of Columbia and her crew by doing their part to make the agency smarter, stronger and better than ever before.