NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida seems to have been spared the worst of Hurricane Matthew, after models predicted the area would receive a direct hit from the storm. Instead, the center of the hurricane passed about 26 miles away from KSC’s home at Cape Canaveral, and the storm surge looks like it won't be as bad as previously thought. Apart from a few power outages, there hasn’t been any significant damage reported at KSC so far, according to NASA.
Cape Canaveral saw wind gusts reaching up to 107 miles per hour
At the worst, Cape Canaveral saw sustained winds at 90 miles per hour, with gusts reaching up to 107 miles per hour, according to Michael Curie, the news chief at KSC. Those may be some of the highest wind speeds the area has experienced, but the buildings at KSC are more than capable of handling them. KSC’s Vertical Assembly Building — which once housed the Space Shuttles — and many of the launch pads can withstand gusts of 125 miles per hour. And all buildings and pads constructed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 were built to withstand gusts between 130 and 135 miles per hour.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center. (NASA)
However, one of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral wasn’t exactly in optimal health prior to the storm, and it’s unclear how Hurricane Matthew has affected it. The pad at Launch Complex 40 was recently damaged when one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets exploded during test preparations on September 1st. SpaceX said that it would be monitoring the storm very closely to ensure its launch pads at the Cape were safe. "We’re closely monitoring the weather conditions and working with our partners at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to safeguard facilities and personnel in the potentially affected areas," said a company representative.
We won’t know the full extent of the damage until later this afternoon, though. Winds should die down enough by then, allowing crews to go out and determine the health of the buildings. And a formal assessment won’t be conducted until Saturday morning, once the storm has fully passed. But so far KSC seems to be faring well. Some roofs have been damaged, according to NASA, and a few water and electrical services have been suspended. There’s also some scattered debris. But otherwise, America’s Space Coast is incredibly lucky and the busy spaceport may be ready to launch rockets again soon.