Florida Spaceports Recovering from Irma, No Launches Until Oct

Launch Complex 39 surrounding areas are seen during an aerial survey of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 12, 2017. The survey was performed to identify structures and facilities that may have sustained damage from Hurricane Irma as the storm passed Kennedy on September 10, 2017. NASA closed the center ahead of the storm’s onset and only a small team of specialists known as the Rideout Team was on the center as the storm approached and passed. Credits: NASA

Hurricane Irma’s path may have been far west of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Patrick Air Force Base (PAFB), but Florida’s Space Coast still took a beating nonetheless.

That’s because, according to the National Weather Service, the heaviest rainfall occurred east of Irma’s path, where its outer rain bands and strong wind gusts carried on relentlessly, aided by the storm’s forward motion up the state’s west coast, while also dropping tornadoes up and down the Atlantic coast.

A flipped trailer at KSC’s Turn Basin in front of the iconic VAB. Photo: NASA/Bill White

KSC’s Damage Assessment and Recovery Team (DART) took flight Sep 12 with center Director, Bob Cabana, to survey the area and found a “variety of damage” across the space center. NASA closed the center ahead of Irma’s arrival, and it will remain closed to its general workforce through at least Friday, Sep 15, except for mission-essential personnel with DART.

As of Sep 14, DART has completed 90 percent of its review of KSC, and continues to recover key systems as they assess and mitigate issues in order to open and fully resume operations at the spaceport.

“The center currently is without potable water service, which is used for drinking, food preparation and cleaning,” says NASA. “The center and surrounding community remain under a boil water restriction. The center’s chillers rely on industrial water and are unaffected by the water restriction.  The center will re-open following restoration of full water service.”

The space center is expected to reopen again Monday, Sep 18.

According to the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron, wind speeds at the center varied from 67-94 mph (59-82 knots) at the 54-foot level to 90-116 mph (79-101 knots) at the 458-foot level during the storm.

NASA’s KSC Visitor Complex, however, WILL open again to then public on Friday, Sep 15, resuming regular operating hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. This excludes bus tours onto KSC or transport to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, but all main attractions and exhibits will be open (including the shuttle Atlantis exhibit).

In an inquiry to SpaceX, the company says their initial checkouts at pad 39A found minimal damage, “far less than Hurricane Matthew” they added.


SpaceX aims to launch their next mission no earlier than October with EchoStar 105 / SES-11, while also preparing fore their highly anticipated inaugural launch of their mammoth triple-barreled Falcon Heavy rocket, which now lays in the SpaceX hangar at 39A.

ULA’s launch facilities on CCAFS lucked out with only minimal issues too, such as blown down signs and water intrusion, but nothing much more than that.

They were scheduled to launch an Atlas-V from pad 41 with NROL-52 for the National Reconnaissance Office in late Sep, but 45th Space Wing Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith has confirmed any launches off their Eastern Range won’t occur until October at the earliest now due to Irma.

The famous astronaut Beach House on KSC appears to have weathered the storm well, but with about half of its rooftop peeled off, and pad 39B, future launch site of the SLS/Orion and potentially other launchers, appears to have weathered the storm well too. Same goes for the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and Launch Control Center (LCC).

The Multi-Payload Processing Facility (MPPF) took some minor damage, as did a tank storage unit near 39A and an industrial building behind the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF).

Minimal damage to the astronaut beach house. Photo: NASA/Bill White

Meanwhile, the 45th Space Wing has been keeping busy themselves to regain full operations of both Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base. CCAFS re-opened to non-mission essential personnel (Recovery Condition III) today, but is still under a boil water notice; Patrick AFB water is safe to drink, but under limited usage.

Damage to structures at both installations was minor, similar to what was seen on KSC, but a lot of structures took that minor damage. On CCAFS, 107 of 216 buildings took damage to some degree, along with some flooding in low lying areas and power outages,. PAFB saw 40% of its facilities damaged, but its housing took the hardest hit with 97% damaged.

PAFB mission facilities are now back online.

The 920th Rescue Wing’s Guardian Angel airmen are back too. After canvassing Florida for two days, no rescues were needed.



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One Comment

  1. It’s Musk’s new COBRA weather dominator. First MAF, then Houston–now this. Anything to kill old space 😉

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