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[i]Hurricane Frances has battered the Kennedy Space Center's 525-ft high Vehicle Assembly Building ripping off over 1000 panels from its exterior, Center Director Jim Kennedy told reporters a short while ago. With another Hurricane possibly on course to hit Florida this weekend, the space agency is worried.
"The VAB is something of concern," Kennedy said."Not only because of the initial damage but because of the potential that Ivan brings to us. Our weather people tell us that Ivan could be at the backdoor of KSC as early as Saturday."
Ivan is a powerful hurricane packing winds of 115 miles per hour, currently located 360 miles east-southeast of Barbados.
Although power was lost to all three Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs), which shelter the shuttle fleet, there was no significant damage to the buildings other than some minor water intrusion beneath doors. Power has been restored to OPF bays 1 and 2, but not yet at bay 3, which houses Discovery, the shuttle slated for NASA's post-Columbia return to flight.
NASA's efforts to return the shuttle fleet to flight could also be impacted by extensive damage to the tile manufacturing facility at the space center.
"We believe that the roof is partially gone," Kennedy said. "There is extensive water damage within the facility."
Until repairs can be made, NASA is considering reactivating a recently closed tile manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California, according to Kennedy.
With each panel on the side of the VAB measuring 4 by 10 feet, Kennedy estimated 40,000 square feet has been exposed to the elements. The damage occured on the south and east facing side.
A portion of the grandstand roof at the space center press site has been ripped away and the roof of the news center facility has been damaged.
Kennedy Space Center employees, except those in Disaster Assessment and Recovery Teams, are not to report to work tomorrow.[/i]
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