NASA managers have broken ground on a $56 million processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center that puts the agency one step closer to turning space station Freedom into reality. "We start processing for our first [space station assembly] flight roughly four years from today," Richard Kohrs, director of the space station program, said Tuesday.
The hangar-like three-story processing facility building, at a cost of $56 million, is the largest construction project at the Kennedy Space Center since the Apollo moon program. It will feature 63,000 square feet of space for assembly and testing of space station components, along with a 5,000-square-foot airlock.
Scheduled to be completed in early 1994, the new processing facility will be occupied by some 1,000 National Aeronautics and Space Administration and contractor workers.
NASA just completed a congressionally mandated redesign of Freedom, reducing its size, cost, and complexity in the face of budget cuts totaling $5.7 billion over the five years.
Shuttle assembly flights are scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 1996 with part-time, "man-tended" operations beginning in mid 1997. Full-time, permanently manned status, using four astronauts instead of eight as originally envisioned, is now scheduled for 2000. It had been set for 1997 or 1998. Prior to the redesign, NASA expected Freedom to cost $38.3 billion to build, including development, on-orbit operations, and shuttle transportation. The project now is expected to run some $30 billion.