February 23, 2015 – United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Boeing held a ceremonial groundbreaking February 20 to begin construction on a new crew access structure at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The tower will be used for launches of Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft atop a ULA Atlas V rocket. Boeing was selected to finalize the design of its integrated crew transportation system and work with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to certify it for crew launches to the International Space Station by 2017.
The team’s innovative designs for a Crew Access Tower and Crew Access Arm allow flight crews to safely ingress and egress the CST-100 capsule.
Each segment of the new tower and arm will be built at an off-site location and assembled at the pad between launches. The tower and other elements will take approximately 18 months and will not impact any scheduled launches at the pad.
The Atlas V launch pad has been used only for non-crewed spacecraft to this point, hosting Titan rockets beginning in 1965 and then the Atlas V since 2002. NASA missions launched from SLC-41 include the Viking robots that landed on Mars, the Voyager spacecraft that toured the outer planets, the New Horizons probe now headed to Pluto, and the Curiosity rover currently traversing Mars.
“I can’t wait to see this tower erected and an Atlas V up there with a CST-100 headed off to the International Space Station,” said Bob Cabana, director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “This historic pad has launched a number of NASA scientific missions and will now launch an even more valuable, precious piece of cargo, and that’s NASA astronauts to the station.”
Missions flown on commercial crew spacecraft are vital to the national goal of restoring to America the ability to launch astronauts to the station so the unique orbiting laboratory can continue to fulfill its promise of achieving cutting-edge research for the benefit of all on Earth. With the new spacecraft, the station’s crew can expand by one, which will enable research time on the station to double from its current 40 hours a week to 80 hours a week.