NASA Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy held a teleconference with the news media this afternoon and provided a preliminary picture of the damage Hurricane Frances inflicted upon the space center.
Kennedy was careful to note that this was a preliminary assessment. "We have only been onsite for 5-6 hours. Our number one concern is the people at NASA KSC. There have been no deaths or injuries as far as I know to anyone who works at KSC." KSC employs 12,000 contractors and 2,000 civil servants.
"We have DART - Disaster Assessment Reaction Teams - onsite. There are a total of 500 people on these teams. Not everyone is onsite yet. Tomorrow will be a work day only for the people needed to get the Center up and functioning."
The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) has the most visible damage. According to Kennedy the damage can be seen on the South and East walls of the VAB. There are some 1,000 panels that have lifted off of the building. There are also areas of insulation and subpanels missing. Each panel is 4x10 feet in size. According to Kennedy, "this means that there is as much as 40,000 square feet more or less open to the elements on the VAB. The good news is that not much critical hardware was in the VAB. There are two ETs - and two aft SRB skirts in there but they are protected from the elements. The VAB was being used for storage of cars and trucks. We now need to see what we can do to protect VAB from further damage." Kennedy added "we have not inspected the VAB roof yet.
When asked about the prospect of another hurricane hitting the area as soon as the end of this week, Kennedy said "I am concerned about Ivan and 40,000 square feet of exposed space. People are not sure what they can do with only 5 day's notice.
There is currently a lack of power across the Center. According to Kennedy everything was powered down before the storm. "It is harder to power up than power down. The SSPF has full power. (Orbiter Processing Facility) OPF 1 and 2 now have power. OPF 3 does not have power. Space Station hardware in the Space Station Processing Facility looks pretty good. There is a little bit of water inside the OPF that can be mopped up." There does not appear to be any damage to the Space Shuttles Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour, which were secured before the hurricane.
The Shuttle Tile Facility suffered significant damage. The roof is partially gone an there is extensive water damage inside. "Tile manufacturing is on the critical path for return to flight. We are looking at possibility of Palmdale as a back up" Kennedy said.
When asked what impact this damage would have Kennedy said "We do not know impact on various programs at this time. It is way too early to understand that."
The SWIFT payload is currently on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. "We have no feedback on its status yet - but we believe that the building is in good shape. The spacecraft was put in its shipping container for extra protection." Kennedy said.
As for upcoming activities Kennedy said "the DART teams will be on site for another 24 hours. There will be another telecon with the media tomorrow at noon. At 2:00 tomorrow there will be a media tour." When asked what the status of launch facilities was Kennedy said "We did not get out to the launch pads."