August 8th, 2018
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine paid his first visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on a two-day stop that began on Monday, Aug. 6 and concluded today (Aug. 7). The visit comes just days before one of the most important NASA missions of the year is poised to get underway.
Bridenstine reviewed various facilities at the 34 mile (55 kilometer) long and roughly six miles (9.7 kilometers) wide center. NASA is currently working to conduct the first launch of its super-heavy Space Launch System rocket and the second flight of the crew-rated Orion spacecraft (Exploration Mission 1). This mission is currently slated for 2020.
The agency has also helped private aerospace companies to revolutionize the manner in which space exploration. Under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services Program, some 23 cargo runs made to the International Space Station via Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft (a Dragon spacecraft also conducted a test flight to the orbiting lab under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract). It is hoped the first crewed flights of these missions will begin in the 2019-2020 time frame.
“NASA, of course, has a lot of projects on the table right now. In fact there are probably even more since the Apollo era,” Bridenstine said during Tuesday’s media roundtable. “We’ve got two commercial crew and we have two commercial crew providers, and then we got our deep space transportation, which is SLS and Orion. Both are critically important to the United States of America.”
Moreover, the agency is also hoping that Boeing and SpaceX might be able to send crews to the International Space Station via crew-rated “taxis” that are owned by the companies producing them rather than NASA itself.
“Commercial Crew gets us back-and-forth to low-Earth orbit and, of course it gets us to the International Space Station,” Bridenstine said. “The idea being that we have a whole host of commercial habitation in low-Earth orbit that Commercial Crew can supply.”
The agency, along with the launch service provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA) are preparing a Delta IV Heavy rocket to send the the Parker Solar Probe on its way to the Sun’s coronasphere on Sunday Aug. 11, 2018. The launch window is currently scheduled to open at 3:33 a.m. EDT (7:33 GMT).
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in low-Earth orbit with commercialization [of space] and I think Commercial Crew is a big piece of that,” Bridenstine said. “Then we got, ultimately, how do we go deeper into space? So when we think about what NASA is and what NASA does, we want to go forward and with higher risk, we want to prove technologies and to ultimately enable commercial to come in behind and advance those capabilities after we’ve retired sufficient risk to where commercial industry can close the business case for that to maintain that operation.”
Bridenstine was sworn in as NASA’s 13th administrator on April 23, 2018.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.