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How One Man’s Trash Became Another’s Treasure (Literally) at Kennedy Space Center

Getting rid of waste isn’t always as simple as just tossing something in a trashcan or putting it out for recycling, especially if the material is regulated or controlled. What if we showed you how Jacobs is diverting thousands of pounds of waste for reuse at Kennedy Space Center, delivering a sustainable and cost-effective solution for temperature-resistant materials needed to keep spacecraft and personnel safe during exploration?

Billet material in blue sky

The average temperature on Earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit. On Venus, temperatures consistently reach a blazing 840 degrees, and as the planet closest to the sun – Mercury’s hottest temperatures hit up to 869 degrees. As space exploration advances, we need to be prepared for things to heat up.

That’s why our team works with Kennedy Space Center to manufacture heat-resistant tiles for use on space vehicles as part of our Test and Operations Support Contract (TOSC) at the Kennedy Space Center.

As NASA’s primary launch center for human spaceflight since 1968, ensuring the safety and reliability of various spacecraft and personnel at Kennedy Space Center – including temperature protection not only for vehicles, but also spacesuits and portable life support systems – is mission critical.

However, the excess heat-resistant tile scraps manufactured at Kennedy aren’t easy to get rid of, because even though they’re not hazardous, they are controlled by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Projected to be produced at a rate of 4,000 pounds per year, the coated ceramic material waste was rapidly becoming a problem to store and dispose of.

But what if we showed you how Jacobs’ innovative solution transformed a problematic waste into a valuable resource in just a few easy steps, contributing to recycling, reuse and waste diversion goals and creating a lasting benefit for Kennedy Space Center?

3.3K

pounds of heat-resistant tile waste diverted and reused

$50K

in savings by eliminating disposal costs (approximate)

This creative solution illustrates the ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that inspires all KSC employees to look for innovative fixes for difficult problems.

Jim LaRocque
Jacobs Director of Safety and Mission Assurance

Seeking a better way

Pile of billet material

The heat-resistant tile scraps at Kennedy Space Center previously had just one possible identified destination for disposal – a secure landfill in Atlanta. However, our team didn’t have a contractual agreement with the landfill and thus, shipping and securing material sent there would be highly costly.

In lieu of high costs and additional landfill waste, engineering, technical and environmental personnel at the Thermal Protection System Facility (TPSF) began seeking other avenues for the waste. The team determined that the material could be demilitarized, which would remove the ITAR export control concern, by reducing the size of the billet material to chunks resembling gravel and a powder form. 

A commercial crusher yielded pieces around ½ inch and afterward material was reground to make smaller and Portland cement was added to create a mixture that can be used in various jobs where crushed concrete can be utilized.

Turning waste into value

Now, this mixed material is being staged at Kennedy’s Demolition and Construction Reuse Yard (DARCY) for use by onsite contractors after being mixed with water to make solidified concrete. Jacobs has even used this material for filler at a newly acquired area at the Kennedy Space Center railyard, where our construction management facilities are relocating from another location.

This innovative solution transformed a problematic waste into a valuable resource in a few easy steps, and in the end the material recycled into concrete is benefitting contractors and Kennedy Space Center alike. Recycled concrete materials from DARCY have been applied on numerous projects, including paving and construction around Kennedy Space Center and even repairs to a wave-damaged seawall and Hurricane-eroded shoreline.

To date, we’ve diverted 3,300 pounds of tile material and concrete for reutilization – positively contributing to our team’s and Kennedy’s environmental goals and fully meeting the responsibilities associated with ITAR and Export Control requirements.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world? Visit www.jacobs.com/what-if.