Miami (AFP) – Hurricane Matthew lashed NASA’s rocket launch facility at Cape Canaveral on Friday, forcing power outages and damaging roofs as it battered the Florida coast, the US space agency said.
Rockets, spaceships and crucial equipment for the US space program and private companies such as SpaceX are all stored in the area, which is home to Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
“At this time there is observed to be limited roof damage to KSC facilities, water and electrical utilities services have been disrupted and there is scattered debris,” wrote NASA’s Brian Dunbar on the US space agency’s website.
By 9:45 am (1345 GMT), the worst of the storm had passed offshore from Cape Canaveral, NASA said on its website.
Just about an hour earlier, Category 3 Matthew shaved past the NASA launchpad at a distance of 26 miles (42 kilometers) off the tip of Cape Canaveral.
Winds were gusting at up to 107 miles (172 kilometers) per hour and tropical storm force winds are expected to continue until late Friday.
Cape Canaveral could see eight to 12 inches of rain, with storm surges as high as one to five feet.
116 NASA staff were at the mercy of hurricane Matthew
A skeleton crew of 116 people was on staff at Kennedy Space Center to ride out the hurricane.
Their mission is to report on significant events to the Emergency Operations Center, located in the Launch Control Center at Complex 39, and take any needed actions help keep the facility secure.
“All facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station have been secured,” said Dunbar.
“After the hurricane has passed and winds have dropped below 50 knots (approximately 58 mph), damage around the space center will be assessed and the Damage Assessment and Recovery Team will then report for duty.”
Crews were expected to begin documenting the extent of the damage outdoors around Kennedy Space Center later Friday afternoon.