by Michael Wright
In May, I ran a workshop in Orlando on “Successful Preservation Practices for Steel Bridge Coatings”. Representatives from NASA presented at the workshop and invited the participating experts from various Departments of Transportation to tour their Corrosion Technology Laboratory and Beach Atmospheric Exposure Site at Kennedy Space Center.
Why was NASA invited to a workshop on bridge painting? NASA has been dealing with corrosion since the early years of the space program because Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are in one of the most naturally corrosive environments in North America. Launch facilities are exposed to salty ocean air, high ambient air temperatures, UV light and 5000°F engine exhaust. When the Space Shuttle began launching with solid rocket boosters, corrosion at the launch pads became even more severe due to the solid rocket exhaust. Every shuttle launch dumped the equivalent of 70 tons of hydrochloric acid on Launch Complex 39, pads A & B.
The Corrosion Technology Laboratory has developed corrosion protection standards used program-wide and new methods to evaluate and test materials and coatings. They are currently working on more environmentally friendly coatings, and “smart” coatings using micro-capsules and micro-containers that can detect, indicate and heal corrosion. More detailed information is on their website: http://corrosion.ksc.nasa.gov
I was very impressed with the pride that our NASA hosts had in the space program and their dedication to keeping the NASA’s personnel and facilities safe.
In addition to visiting the Beach Atmospheric Exposure Site, we toured the Space Station Processing Facility where the International Space Station’s modules were prepared for launch. This facility now prepares experiment packages going to the ISS. For example, botanists are developing packages that will be used to grow plants to sustain astronauts traveling to Mars. The packages are sent up to the ISS where the astronauts grow the plants in micro-gravity.
Check out pictures of both facilities and a few other cool sites at KSC in my Flickr album.