CAPE CANAVERAL — With the changes that are coming to businesses around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) some local companies are branching out, while remaining true to their roots. Although not well known outside of the Cape Canaveral area, Space Shirts is where many space insiders and aerospace companies go when they need a specially-made shirt whether it is a regular T-shirt or a more professional-appearing polo.
However, the privately-owned company located just outside the gates of KSC produces more than just shirts and is looking to expand the products it produces as the shuttle era draws to a close.
The company is owned by Brenda Mulberry, who started the company the same year that astronaut Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman to fly into space – 1984. The company is largely known for its shuttle mission shirts. The company only started producing those after the loss of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Since that time they’ve produced shirts for each mission – but only on a limited basis, making each a collector’s item. With the shuttle fleet set to retire next year – that collectability will only increase and the company is looking for ways to survive the loss of the shuttle.
NASA however is more than just the orbiters and many forget that the first “A” in NASA stands for aeronautics. As such, Space Shirts has stepped up producing shirts and products for air shows, such as the Cocoa Beach Air Show and aerobatic performers such as the U.S. Thunderbirds. While the store’s owners have no intention of no longer producing space-related apparel and other items, they realized that they must changes with the times, as such they have worked to diversify the types of products that they produced.
“We’ve seen things slow down in the past with tragedies and in-between programs,” Mulberry said during an interview. “For about two years after the end of the shuttle program – we will be extremely busy, just moving out space shirts. After that we will expand what we produce to include products revolving around airplanes and educational efforts.”
As the space shuttle program fades into history, the mementos that this small company orbiting on the outskirts of America’s spaceport produces become all the more important. For most who visit KSC, they only have one opportunity to see a vehicle thunder off the launch pad into space. These souvenirs, shirts and baseball hats are a tangible link, a reminder of the point in history that they were there for – something that they can hold in their hands and say, “I was there.”
Space Shirts has products in the works that will cover the deep history that the space program has in general – and Kennedy Space Center in particular.
“We’ve got great art that we’re going to start putting out,” Mulberry said. “We’re going to do some educational stuff that has to do with the shuttles, the different sizes of the rockets, the progression from Mercury, to Gemini, to Apollo, to shuttle and beyond!”