|December 20, 2016 |
Kennedy Space Center Counts Down to Santa's Toy Delivery Mission
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.
Once again, the agency is making the latest technology available for Santa's global trip this Christmas Eve. Soon he will have access to the most accurate, up-to-date weather forecasts using the new GOES-R weather satellite.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) GOES-R spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 19, 2016, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Claus may want to take advantage of the satellite's advanced instruments to observe weather conditions in the western hemisphere. The satellite will help forecasters improve the accuracy of their predictions, providing increased abilities to track storm intensity and development. It also is equipped with sensors that can pick up signals from emergency beacons as part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System.
Should Santa fly his sleigh through the outer reaches of Earth's atmosphere, he also can benefit from the improved space weather sensor aboard GOES-R (renamed GOES-16 upon reaching geostationary orbit). Geosynchronous satellites orbit about 22,000 miles above the Earth, keeping them over the same location.
As St. Nick crosses the world's oceans, he may benefit from data supplied by the Jason-3 satellite launched Jan. 17, 2016, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Jason-3 is monitoring and precisely measuring global sea surface heights and the intensification of tropical cyclones. Data from Jason-3 now is supporting scientific, commercial and practical applications related to ocean circulation and climate change.
Since Christmas of 2000, the jolly old fellow's annual trip has included one extraterrestrial destination -- the International Space Station. In addition to Santa's delivery, crews aboard the space station received supplies in July launched from Cape Canaveral. The SpaceX CRS-9 lifted off on the company's Falcon 9 rocket, boosting a Dragon spacecraft with about 4,900 pounds of supplies. The delivery included new science experiments and an International Docking Adapter. The adapter was installed on the station during a spacewalk in August to facilitate docking of commercial crew spacecraft, including the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon.
In the near future, Claus may join astronauts after they have launched from U.S. soil to the space station aboard new spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The effort is an agency partnership including Boeing and SpaceX to take astronauts to the orbiting laboratory.
CCP was formed to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of reliable and cost-effective access from U.S. soil to the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
Supporting multiple agencies and companies launching from the Florida spaceport is part of Kennedy's role as a premier multi-user spaceport, with a variety of commercial and government partners working at Kennedy and using the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).
Kennedy's three-mile long runway will be available should Santa and his reindeer need it for a rest stop during their long, Christmas Eve trip. Space Florida now operates the SLF under a 30-year property agreement with NASA.
Kennedy is a high-tech space center, as well as home to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, providing a 140,000-acre habitat for hundreds of wildlife species, including alligators, manatees and deer.
While pausing at Kennedy, St. Nick may want to check out some of the technology he may need when he is ready to visit future pioneers living and working on Mars. The crew module for the Orion spacecraft designated for the Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1, flight is being prepared in the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.
The first integrated mission of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft, EM-1 will lift off from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy in late 2018. On the mission, the spacecraft will venture 40,000 miles beyond the orbit of the moon, farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever traveled, testing the systems needed for the agency’s Journey to Mars.
While interplanetary exploration may be a few years away, the intervening time gives Santa Claus the opportunity to map out his gift-giving strategy no matter where astronauts venture beyond Earth.
To learn more about the GOES-R satellite, visit:
To read more about NASA's Jason-3 satellite, visit
To learn more about the International Space Station, visit:
To find out when the space station is visible in your area, visit.
To learn more about the SpaceX CRS-9 mission, visit:
To read more about the Commercial Crew Program, visit:
To learn more about NASA's agreement with Space Florida to operate the Shuttle Landing Facility, visit:
To read more about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, visit:
To read more about NASA's Journey to Mars, visit:
To learn more about the other missions and programs NASA's Kennedy Space Center supports, visit: