Space Station Processing Facility

The Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) is a three-story industrial building at Kennedy Space Center for the manufacture and processing of flight hardware, modules, structural components and solar arrays of the International Space Station, and future space stations and commercial spacecraft. It was built in 1992 at the space complex's industrial area, just east of the Operations and Checkout Building.[1]

Space Station Processing Facility
Interior of the SSPF, showing Node 2 being hoisted by overhead cranes
Interior of the SSPF, showing Node 2 being hoisted by overhead cranes
Space Station Processing Facility is located in Florida
Space Station Processing Facility
Location in Florida
Space Station Processing Facility is located in the United States
Space Station Processing Facility
Space Station Processing Facility (the United States)
LocationKennedy Space Center
Coordinates28°31′26″N 80°38′39″W / 28.523844°N 80.6442833°W / 28.523844; -80.6442833
IndustryAerospace and Space Technology
ProductsSpace Station Modules and Equipment
ArchitectKSC Management
Area42,500 m2 (457,000 sq ft)
Volume111,888 m3 (3,951,300 cu ft) (high bay)
13,905 m3 (491,100 cu ft) (Intermediate bay)
AddressNASA Parkway East

The SSPF includes two processing bays, an airlock, operational control rooms, laboratories, logistics areas for equipment and machines, office space, a ballroom and conference halls, and a cafeteria. The processing areas, airlock, and laboratories are designed to support non-hazardous Space Station and Space Shuttle payloads in 100,000 class clean work areas. The building has a total floor area of 42,500 m2 (457,000 sq ft).

History and construction

The Space Station Processing Facility under construction in December 1991. Structural steel beams, and the Neil Armstrong Building are visible in the background.

During the re-designing phase of Space Station Freedom in early 1991, Congress approved new plans for NASA to lead the project and begin manufacturing its components for the future International Space Station. Kennedy Space Center was selected as the ideal launch processing complex for the ISS, as well as hosting all the internationally manufactured modules and station elements.

However the Operations and Checkout Building (which was originally to be the prime factory for station launch processing) was insufficient in size to accommodate all the components. On March 26, 1991, engineers at Kennedy Space Center; along with contractor Metric Constructions Inc. of Tampa Florida, broke ground on a new $56 million Space Station Processing Facility, situated adjacent to the O&C. The design called for a 457,000-square-foot multifunction building housing an enormous processing bay, laboratories, control rooms, staging areas, communications and control facilities, and office space for some 1,400 NASA and contractor employees.[2]

KSC Deputy Director Gene Thomas described the construction: "The skyline around here is really going to change. This will be the biggest facility that we have built since the Apollo days". The SSPF used reinforced concrete and some 4,300 tons of steel. The building was structurally completed and topped out by mid 1992.

After three years of construction, interior fitting and equipment set-up, the SSPF formally opened on June 23, 1994.

Operations and manufacturing processes

Technicians checking out and testing the ISS RapidScat antenna dish in the low bay area
Space Station workstations and engineers in the high bay area
STS-133 MPLM in its workstand, while visitors observe the area from the observation windows

At the SSPF, space station modules, trusses and solar arrays are prepped and made ready for launch. The low and high bays are fully air conditioned and ambient temperature is maintained at 12 °C (54 °F) at all times. Workers and engineers wear full non-contaminant clothing while working. Modules receive cleaning and polishing, and some areas are temporarily disassembled for the installation of cables, electrical systems and plumbing. In another area, shipments of spare materials are available for installation. International Standard Payload Rack frames are assembled and welded together, allowing the installation of instruments, machines and allowing science experiment boxes to be fitted. Once racks are fully assembled, they are hoisted by a special manually operated robotic crane and carefully maneuvered into place inside the space station modules. Each rack weighs from 700 to 1,100 kg, and connect inside the module on special mounts with screws and latches.[3]

Cargo bags for MPLM modules are filled with their cargo such as food packages, science experiments and other miscellaneous items on-site in the SSPF, and loaded into the module by the same robotic crane and strapped in securely.

Many of the builders accompanied their modules from around the world during their manufacturing, and worked at KSC for months to years during final assembly. Many ISS modules were renamed after successfully launching.

Station Integration Testing


Regarding the launch of modules of the International Space Station (ISS), there had been philosophical differences for years between designers and payload processors whether to ship-and-shoot or perform integration testing prior to launch. The former involved building a station module and launching it without ever physically testing it with other modules. The integration testing was not originally in the ISS plan, but in 1995 Johnson Space Center designers began to consider it and embedding KSC personnel at module factories. Multi-Element Integration Testing (MEIT) of ISS modules at KSC was officially in the books in 1997.[4][5][6]

Three MEIT and one Integration Systems Test (IST) tests were conducted for the ISS, taking about three years from planning to completion and closure:[7]

After the launch of the Destiny, an emulator was built for MEIT testing, since the lab controlled many other modules. Among the items checked were mechanical connections, the ability to flow power and fluids between modules, and the flight software.

Numerous issues were found and rectified from these on the ground tests, many of which could not have been fixed in orbit.

Building specifications

A Cygnus spacecraft being moved by overhead cranes to another work area in the high bay. Note the ceiling height in comparison to the engineers.
ExPRESS Logistics Carrier no.3 for STS-134
The I-bay area
S3-S4 Truss being hoist to the payload transfer container

The SSPF's High Bays provide maximum flexibility for manufacturing, assembly, testing and processing payloads and elements destined for space. The bays are enormous cleanrooms equipped with overhead cranes, commodities-servicing equipment and a secure backup-power supply. The facility also has 15 offline labs.[8]

Intermediate Bay (I-bay)

  • Dimensions: 338 ft (103 m) in length, by 50 ft (15 m) in width
  • Ceiling height 30 ft (9.1 m)
  • 100,000-class clean work area

High Bay

  • Dimensions 472 ft (144 m) in length, by 121 ft (37 m) in Width
  • Ceiling height 69 ft (21 m)
  • Can be separated into eight different processing areas


  • I-bay: Two 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) capacity
  • High Bay: Two 30,000 kg (66,000 lb) capacity

Commodities and Servicing Equipment

  • Ammonia servicing machines
  • Compressed air supply (125 psi)
  • Potable water pipes

Electrical Services

  • 480 V 3-phase power at 60 Hz
  • Uninterruptible power supply (450 kVA)

Laboratory facilities

  • 9 independently operated control rooms
  • 15 labs, 2 chemical labs, and 2 darkrooms
  • 1 Certified offline lab for planetary protection processing (Class-100 clean work area)
  • 3 ISS Environmental Simulator (ISSES) Chambers, can be used to expose ISS life science ground controls to ISS environmental conditions (i.e., temperature, humidity).
  • Experiment Monitoring Area (EMA), used to monitor ISS life science experiments

Office floor area: 140,000 sq ft (13,000 m2) of office/work space

Space Station and space hardware components currently in the SSPF

A panorama view of the high bay area in August 2010. Note the lights sometimes tend to change color from pink to gold hues.

As of 24 June 2023:[citation needed]

When the lights in the building are on, most of these components can be seen on the live webcam from the facility.[11]

Current and future activities

Engineers and students make and prep a LunaH-Map cubesat for Artemis 1 in the SSPF, July 2021.

After the completion of the International Space Station in 2011, the SSPF factory was dormant for several months until early 2012, where the building was slightly refurbished for the moving in of space companies (such as Orbital ATK, SpaceX and eventually Sierra Nevada Corporation) to manufacture, process and load-up Cygnus and Dragon spacecraft[12] and on-board payloads, as part of the Commercial Resupply Services program. NASA's upcoming Artemis mission hardware such as Moon and Mars space station modules and Space Launch System core stage engine sections,[13][14] as well as the Dream Chaser mini-space shuttle,[15] have begun manufacturing and processing operations in the high bay as of December 2022.[16]

The building itself is open to the public and tours are offered free of charge by the employees.[17] Exclusive tours of many areas of the SSPF are part of the Kennedy visitor complex's enhanced bus tour package.[18][19][20]

In 2016, the laboratories of the SSPF were utilized by many small science companies and student unions with scientific equipment to study the feasibility of growing vegetables in space, such as the Veggie plant growth system, and the Advanced Plant Habitat; to launch as scientific payloads to the International Space Station.[21]


Main ballroom of the SSPF, typically used for NASA lectures and sometimes special dinner events

When the high bay area is less busy at times, a variety of events and conferences are held in various places within the SSPF building. Occasional STEM exhibitions take place where visitors (from children and teenagers to university students)[22][23] can visit the SSPF and its ballroom to learn about the building's history,[24] manufacturing acitivies, biological and chemical sciences, and the future vision of space operations at Kennedy Space Center, including the Lunar Gateway mockup module.[25][26][27] The ballroom also doubles as a lecture hall for presentations.[28] On rare occasions the high bay was once used for the National Space Council's second revived meeting on February 21, 2018.

Tenants including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Airbus have also moved facilities into the SSPF.[29][30]



  1. ^ NASA. "Space Station Processing Facility". Archived from the original on February 6, 2007. Retrieved February 8, 2007.
  2. ^ "Discovery STS-39 – Sky Ballet".
  3. ^ Holder, L.; de Jong, M. (1992). "International Standard Payload Rack Interface and Systems Requirements". SAE Technical Paper Series. Vol. 1. doi:10.4271/921263. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Lipartito, Kenneth; Butler, Orville (2007). 'A History of the Kennedy Space Center. University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-3069-2.
  5. ^ "International Space Station Program/Hardware/Multi-Element Integration Testing (MEIT)". Lessons Learned. NASA. February 1, 1999. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  6. ^ "International Space Station (ISS) Program/Ground Processing Schedule/Test and Verification". Lessons Learned. NASA. February 1, 1997. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Beyer, Jeff (October 2009). "STRATEGIES FOR GROUND BASED TESTING OF MANNED LUNAR SURFACE SYSTEMS" (PDF). NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). NASA. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 27, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Notice of Availability for Information Seeking Potential Industry Interest and Uses for Some NASA Kennedy Space Center Facilities". January 24, 2011. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  9. ^ "NextSTEP Lunar Habitat". March 5, 2019 – via Flickr.
  10. ^ "MSolo Testing". NASA. July 13, 2021. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  11. ^ NASA. "Space Station Processing Facility - KSC Video Feeds". Archived from the original on February 8, 2007. Retrieved February 8, 2007.
  12. ^ "Bartolomeo Unboxing for SpaceX CRS-20". NASA. January 30, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  13. ^ Cawley, James (December 19, 2022). "Artemis III Core Stage Engine Section Arrives at Kennedy". NASA. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  14. ^ Foust, Jeff (December 7, 2022). "NASA and Boeing change SLS core stage assembly process". SpaceNews. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  15. ^ "SNC Pressure Test Article Arrival". NASA. June 3, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  16. ^ "SSPF - 25 Year Anniversary Then & Now Pic1". NASA. May 16, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  17. ^ "NASA KSC Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF)". Foursquare.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Event Registration - NASA Gateway Logistics Element Tour".
  20. ^ "Kennedy Space Center Explore Tour". Archived from the original on June 17, 2017.
  21. ^ "SSPF - 25 Year Anniversary Then & Now Pic2". NASA. May 16, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  22. ^ "My Brother's Keeper National Lab Week". NASA. March 2, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  23. ^ "Zero Robotics Finals at KSC (image)". NASA. August 15, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  24. ^ "Innovation Expo with Bob Cabana Pic1". NASA. November 2, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
  25. ^ "Innovation Expo with Bob Cabana Pic2". NASA. November 2, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
  26. ^ "Langston University Faculty/Student Group Tour". NASA. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
  27. ^ "NextSTEP Hab Testing with Astronauts". NASA. March 25, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  28. ^ "Insight Employee Event". NASA. March 12, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  29. ^ "Bartolomeo Unboxing for SpaceX CRS-20". NASA. January 30, 2020.
  30. ^ "Sierra Nevada Open House at SSPF". NASA. September 20, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2022.