NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is counting down to support Santa Claus during his annual mission to deliver toys and other presents to children around the world.
Claus can take advantage of agency technology advances, such as the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) system, already aiding the annual Christmas Eve flight.
Not long after Claus' trip last year, NASA launched TDRS-K, part of the next-generation series of space-based communication satellites providing tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services. Claus now has this system available, providing almost uninterrupted communications services with his mission control center at the North Pole.
Claus also will have access to up-to-date imagery of the changes on the Earth provided by the Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft, which launched in February. This could aid Claus in knowing exactly where to touch down in areas of recent population growth.
As Santa makes his way along Florida's Space Coast, Kennedy's mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) always makes an easy-to-spot landmark. Spaceport employees celebrated the 50th anniversary of the VAB this year and modifications are under way that will result in the ability to process multiple vehicles such as the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft while simultaneously restacking toys into Santa’s sleigh.
As Claus and his reindeer make their deliveries, they could make a fly-by of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where the space shuttle Atlantis now is on display following its grand opening in late June.
If Claus and his reindeer need a rest stop during their long Christmas Eve trip, they are invited to use Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility. There, Claus could check out a rock-and crater-filled planetary scape that has been built so engineers can test an autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology, or ALHAT. NASA engineers are testing the new system with Project Morpheus and a similar system could prove useful as Claus touches down in varied terrains around the world.
Claus has one extraterrestrial destination this year -- the International Space Station. Crews aboard the orbiting laboratory recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Soon, astronauts can join Santa by flying aboard new spacecraft launching from U.S. soil; NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is partnering with private industry on launch vehicle and spacecraft development options for taking astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the station.
Like Claus' annual world-wide delivery mission, the space station is a multinational effort including the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia and the 11 members of the European Space Agency -- Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. And like Santa’s sleigh, the space station can be seen flying through the sky from locations around the world:
To read more about the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system, visit:
To read more about the Landsat, visit:
To learn more about the Vehicle Assembly Building's 50th Anniversary, visit:
To learn more about the International Space Station, visit:
To learn more about the other missions and programs NASA's Kennedy Space Center supports, visit: