Hurricane Frances could destroy space shuttles

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enderw

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http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996354<br /><br />Hurricane Frances could destroy space shuttles <br /> <br /> <br />11:13 03 September 04 <br /> <br />NewScientist.com news service <br /> <br />Hurricane Frances, predicted to hit land 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, could cause catastrophic damage to the space shuttles and spacecraft stored there, meteorologists predict. The cyclone has also prompted a massive evacuation of areas in its path.<br /><br />At 0500 EST on Friday, the cyclone was passing over Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas and was travelling towards Florida at 15 km per hour (9 mph). It remains on an apparent collision course with Fort Pierce on Florida's east coast 460 km (285 miles) away and is expected to strike land after 2000 EST on Saturday.<br /><br />Frances eased a little during Thursday night, dropping from a category four to a strong category three hurricane. Its maximum sustained winds are still raging at 195 km per hour (120 mph). But forecasters at the US National Weather Service say that "some fluctuations in intensity are possible during the next 24 hours".<br /><br />If Hurricane Frances hits Florida as a category four, it would mark the first time on record that two category four storms have hit the US in the same year. Hurricane Charley slammed into the Florida’s west coast on 13 August 2004.<br /><br />But Frances is twice as large in area as Charley, and its hurricane-force winds extend 140 km (85 miles) from its centre. Tropical storm-force winds stretch 295 km (185 miles) from the hurricane's eye.<br /><br /><br />Torrential rain <br /><br /><br />That means Frances could still wreak havoc on the space center even though it is not predicted to pass directly overhead. The cyclone is expected to produce gusts of wind upwards of 240 km per hour and as much as 50 centimetres (20 inches) of rain in places.<br /><</safety_wrapper>
 
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CalliArcale

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It looks like the eye will pass south of the Cape, not directly over it, and Frances seems to be losing some energy. Last I heard, it was down to a Cat 3. That's not all good news -- apparently it's worse to be north of the eye of an North Atlantic hurricane than south of it, because you have to cope with not only the wind but also its forward motion. Also, Frances is moving slowly, which means the damaging winds and huge amounts of rain will hit one area longer. And a Cat 3 is still above what the OPF is rated to handle.<br /><br />We're all gonna have to cross our fingers for a few days.....<br /><br />I hadn't even thought about the other hardware there, apart from the two Deltas on the pads. Swift is supposed to help answer the mysteries of gamma ray bursts, and there's a bunch of ISS hardware sitting at KSC waiting for delivery to the station. Tons of stuff that we can't afford to lose.<br /><br />NASA and its contractors have done all they can to secure the facilities. Now we just have to hope it's enough. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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Update for those who may not read Missions & Launches, where there have been regular updates from shuttle_guy.....<br /><br />KSC was hit, though not directly. Sustained winds were over 70 MPH, and gusts were over 90 MPH. The OPF, which currently houses all three orbiters, was miraculously undamaged. The orbiters are fine. ISS hardware is fine. In fact, all flight hardware was undamaged.<br /><br />However, the VAB did take damage. It was built to withstand hurricanes, but that was forty years ago, and as shuttle_guy pointed out, it's sitting in the salty sea breeze, which is notorious for degrading structures. Roughly 40,000 square feet of siding were removed, and in some plases, holes were punched all the way through the insulation and into the VAB itself. It now has open gaps, exposing the contents to the elements. This is the most critical thing to repair, because Hurricane Ivan now has a good chance of at least bringing heavy rain to the Cape. However, there's absolutely no way NASA will be able to do a thing about it -- there just isn't enough time, and resources will be extremely strained in Florida with so much cleanup and repair to do all over the state. Additionally, the roof appears to have sustained considerable damage. A crew sent to inspect the roof retreated quickly when they realized how unstable it was. Netting is being strung just below the ceiling in hopes of catching any bits that fall off before it can hit any people, structures, or flight hardware below.<br /><br />Speaking of flight hardware, the VAB is housing two external tanks and two SRB aft skirts (which may be already mated to an MLP; I'm not sure). These appear to be fine, but if Ivan comes, they may still get damaged. There's really no place to move them, given their enormous size.<br /><br />The facility for manufacturing TPS tiles and blankets took the worst damage, losing about 25% of its roof and being deluged with water. Although this is not as critical as the VAB dama <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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