A space shuttle program worker fell to his death Monday morning from a launch pad access arm at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, according to NASA.


The United Space Alliance worker, identified as James Vanover, fell from launch pad 39A, where space shuttle Endeavour is stationed. It's not known how far the man fell.

It is not known if Vanover was in an area of the launch pad that required he wear a safety harness. Some parts have railings and do not require additional safety equipment.

NASA emergency crews tried to revive Vanover, 53, but could not, officials said. NASA said its top priority is to comfort Vanover's family and co-workers, who are being offered counseling.

"Obviously, as you can imagine, our focus is on the workers and the family of the employee, but an investigation is beginning," said Allard Beutel, a KSC spokesman.

"Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of Mr. Vanover," said Virginia Barnes, United Space Alliance's CEO, in a statement. "Our focus right now is on providing support for the family, and for his co-workers. We are also providing our full support to investigating officials in order to determine the cause of the incident as quickly as possible. Until that investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment on the details."

Vanover's father said his son was taking a voluntary layoff next month and had another job lined up. As the shuttle program comes to an end, thousands of United Space Alliance workers have been laid off.

USA said Vanover has worked at Kennedy Space Center for 28 years and he has been with USA since 1996. He was responsible for supporting work on the launch pad swing arms.

Work at launch pad 39A, where processing teams are preparing Endeavour for its targeted April 19 launch, was halted for the day, NASA said.

NASA was scheduled on Monday to put space shuttle Endeavour's main engines through a flight readiness test in preparation of the orbiter's 25th and final flight.

The engine test involves the flowing of gaseous helium through the shuttle's main propulsion system and engines in an attempt to detect any leaks.

Endeavour and six astronauts are scheduled to lift off on a mission to deliver a large cosmic ray detector to the International Space Station.

CBS space analyst Bill Harwood said the incident is not expected to delay the scheduled launch.

Vanover's death is not the first at Kennedy Space Center. In March 2006, 51-year-old Steven Owens, a roofer, fell to his death off the roof of a warehouse after he tripped over a wire.

Stay with and watch Local 6 News for more on this developing story.