Spaceflight Insider

NASA awards contracts for SLS ground systems

Mobile Launcher Kennedy Space Center NASA image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Photo Credit: NASA

NASA has selected a prime contractor to modify its launch facilities and the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) that will be used for its new Space Launch System (SLS). J.P. Donovan Construction, based in Rockledge, Florida, provides construction services for clients in California, and Florida has been selected to carry out this work. Meanwhile, NASA awarded Donovan the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Mobile Launcher Ground Support Equipment Installation contract for $45.8 million.

SLS is designed to carry crews to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Meanwhile, other vehicles are being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program such as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) crewed Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100. However, these are only meant to transport crews to the International Space Station.

SLS meanwhile will work to send the agency’s new Orion spacecraft out of LEO – to destinations beyond. To achieve this, systems that have been in place for decades need to either be removed or renovated.

The Ares-1 launch tower seen from the MLP. Photo Credit: J.P. Donovan

The Ares-1 launch tower as seen from the MLP. Photo Credit: J.P. Donovan

Three Mobile Launch Platforms (MLP) have been in service at Kennedy Space Center since the days of the Apollo lunar program. When a rocket, such as the Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, or SLS is assembled at Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building, they are stacked on the MLP and carried on the crawler-transporter out to the launch pad.

The same MLPs were used for the Apollo Saturn V and the Space Shuttle. One of the three MLPs was converted for the Constellation Program in order to transport the Ares-1 rocket.

J.P. Donovan will modify the MLP to integrate ground support equipment and incorporate systems needed to assemble, process, and launch the SLS.

SLS is part of the “flexible path” option selected by President Barack Obama as an alternative to the now-defunct Constellation Program. With flexibility in mind, the infrastructure facilities are being upgraded to meet the demands of various government, commercial, and other customers.

Donovan will also modify the flame trench at Pad B at Launch Complex 39. This will involve the construction of a new flame deflector as well as refurbishment of the trench itself.

Prior to its GSDO contract, Donovan was responsible for the demolition of underground facilities and construction of new underground facilities to the support the Space Shuttle Atlantis Orbiter Display Facility.

Subcontractors in the project include Core Electric of Melbourne, Florida; MDI Services, LLC of Orlando, Florida; and Bragg Crane & Rigging of Long Beach, California.


Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

Reader Comments

This is confusing because some company was modifying one of the transporters when I was there in 2013. So this contract is for the THIRD transporter? Have the other two been modified?

Hi Peter,
SpaceFlight Insider likes to give you answers from the source. So, we asked an expert at NASA and this is the information we were provided with: There is one mobile launcher for SLS. They just finished doing modifications for the SLS rocket since it was built for a different vehicle. Now they are going to outfit the whole mobile launcher with ground support equipment.
Sincerely and with kind regards, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

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