Hurricane Dorian is slowly making its way to Florida's east coast, prompting NASA's leading spaceport, the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), to prepare for the impending storm. Spaceport employees are used to preparing for hurricanes, and they have already begun to bring some key hardware components to safety before Dorian arrives known as HURCON IV, meaning that winds will be blowing in the region over the next three days with hurricane levels of more than 75 miles per hour are to be expected. It is predicted that Dorian will reach the Florida coast on Monday, September 2, possibly as a Category 4 storm with wind speeds in excess of 200 km / h. This would be the strongest storm that hit Florida's east coast since Hurricane Andrew in 1
On Andrew's trail of destruction by Florida, the people at KSC decided that every building built after this storm should be built to withstand winds between 130 and 135 miles per hour. Other, older buildings are also ready to storm. The large, iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which houses the center's largest spacecraft, was designed to withstand wind gusts of 200 km / h. While this is a threshold below Dorian's anticipated high wind speeds, KSC is not too worried about the integrity of the VAB. "It's a massive aluminum-clad steel cage," says Derrol Nail, a communications officer for NASA's KSC, The Verge . "There are 8,000 tons of steel in this building, so it can stand a lot."
This morning, the center launched the long process of relocating the so-called mobile launch platform to the VAB to weather the storm. The platform is a 650-million-dollar tower structure needed for the launch of the future monster rocket called the Space Launch System, which NASA is developing. Before the storm became a threat, the 400-foot tower had landed on its future launch pad 39B to pass some tests. "Sure, now we've decided that the prognosis is that we need to protect it," says Nail.
The mobile launcher is quite heavy and can only move on a very slow crawler. Transporter – the same mobile platform that transported the Space Shuttle and Saturn V rockets from the VAB to the Launchpad. The transport of the mobile launch platform between these locations takes eight hours. Therefore, NASA sent the crawler transporter to the pad on August 28th to bring the tower back earlier today.
Once this platform is cleared, it's all left. In 39B, there are some tanks and a big concrete hill that NASA is not too worried about. Other launchpads, however, have some solid structures and towers that must survive the storm. The other notable pad at KSC is 39A, which is currently being leased by SpaceX and has a large dark turret supporting the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. "It's a very robust structure," says Nail. "You can imagine that if it can handle 5.6 million pounds of thrust from the Falcon Heavy missile, it can handle a hurricane."