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NASA Facts Building KSC's Launch Complex 39

NASA Facts Building KSC's Launch Complex 39

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Published by Bob Andrepont
NASA Facts booklet on the building of Launch Complex 39
NASA Facts booklet on the building of Launch Complex 39

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Jan 11, 2011
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01/11/2011

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I
n the beginning, there was sand andpalmettos and water. Yet out o this idyllicsetting would grow the most unique structures-- engineering milestones -- that would set thestage or the uture in space.Te Kennedy Space Center o the 21stcentury began lie in the early 1960s when new acilities were needed to launch the moon-bound Saturn V rockets.Initial plans called or a launch complexcomprising a Vertical Assembly Building(VAB), a launcher-transporter, an arming areaand a launch pad. Te VAB would consist o assembly bay areas or each o the stages, witha high-bay unit approximately 110 meters inheight or nal assembly and checkout o thevehicle. Buildings adjacent to the VAB would
Building KSC’s Launch Complex 39
house the Apollo spacecrat and the LaunchControl Center.Te launcher-transporter would incorpo-rate three major acilities: a pedestal or thespace vehicle, an umbilical tower to servicethe upper reaches o the space vehicle, and arail transporter. An arming tower would standabout midway between the assembly buildingand the pads.Te Apollo Saturn would carry a numbero hazardous explosives: the launch escape sys-tem (the tower on top o the vehicle that litedthe spacecrat away rom the launch vehicle incase o an emergency), retrorockets to sepa-rate the stages, ullage rockets to orce uel tothe bottom o tanks, and the launch vehicle’sdestruct system.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
      N      A      S      A
       f     a     c       t     s
Launch Pad 39A is under construction (oreground) with the imposing Vertical Assembly Buildingrising rom the sand in the background.
 
Tese plans would be modied during design andconstruction stages, such as separating the launcher plat-orm rom the transporter and using a roadway instead o rail.Te national goal o accomplishing the manned lunarlanding beore 1970 drove the building program on Mer-ritt Island. Scheduling was critical, depending upon theconcurrent development o the Saturn V launch vehicle,the Apollo spacecrat and launch acilities, and moreparticularly on the timely delivery o ight hardware to thelaunch center.O more immediate concern was the constructiono launch acilities and checking them out many monthsbeore the rst Saturn V launch. I Dec. 1, 1965, was thedate when the launch complexes had to be ready or use,then acilities had to be ready by May 1965 to providetime or checking out and testing the launch complexes.
Construction
Beore structures such as the VAB and Launch Pad 39could emerge on the skyline, the sites had to be preparedand access channels dredged.In 1962, to clear the land in the VAB area, a palmettoplow was used to pull up trees by their roots, shake o thedirt and pile them or burning. Te specialized bulldoz-ers cleared 1.6 square miles (2.5 square kilometers); otherequipment removed 978,116 cubic yards (894,400 cubicmeters) o sot sand and muck.o deliver the rst and second stages o the Saturn V, water was deemed the best carrier. For delivery close tothe launch pad, a barge canal and turn basin near the VAB was needed. Te Gahagan Dredging Corp. o ampadredged a canal measuring 124.7 eet (38 meters) wide,9.8 eet (3 meters) deep and 12.4 miles (20 kilometers)long rom the original Saturn barge channel in the BananaRiver to the site o the turn basin. A channel to pad allowed materials to be delivered directly to the LaunchComplex 39 construction site.During the operations, hydraulic pumps spewed751,959 cubic yards (6,876,000 cubic meters) o sand andshell, which were used or ll at various sites. Most o it was used or the 187-oot (57-meter) wide, 6.6-oot (2-meter) deep crawlerway stretching 3 miles (4.8 kilometers)rom the VAB to pad A (
cover photo
).Te pumps piled up another portion o the dredgedsand on the launch pad, creating a at-topped pyramid o sand and shell 80 eet (24.4 meters) high. During the pro-cess, draglines, bulldozers and other earth-moving equip-ment molded the mound into the approximate shape o the pad. In a short period o time, the pyramid settled 3.9eet (1.2 meters), compressing the soil beneath. Bulldozerscompleted the job by removing part o the pile to achievethe proper elevation.
Launch Pad 39A
Te shape o launch pad A, approximately 2,297square eet (0.7 square kilometers), was roughly octagonal.Te elevated launch pad, which would rise 39.4 eet (12meters) above ground level, lay in a north-south direction.Tis orientation required the crawlerway to make a nearright-angle turn beore approaching the ramp sloping 5degrees upward to the top o the pad.Bisecting the pad would be a ame trench, level withthe surrounding area at its base, measuring 59 eet (18meters) wide and 449.5 eet (137 meters) long. On eachside o this ame trench, a cellular structure would supporta thick surace, called a hardstand. Eventually, a mobilelauncher and the Apollo-Saturn vehicle would be placedon top o this reinorced slab or launch.Te two-story pad terminal connection room and thesingle-story environmental control systems room wouldbe within the western side o the pad. Te ormer wouldhouse the electronic equipment that would connect com-munication and digital data link transmission lines rom ayet-to-be-built launch control center to the mobile launch-er when it was on the pad.Te environmental control systems room would serveas the distribution point or air conditioning and watersystems.Te high-pressure-gas storage acility, to store anddistribute nitrogen and helium gases piped rom the con-verter-compressor acility, would lie beneath the top o thepad on the east side.
Dredged sand created the 80-oot-high mound that wouldbecome launch pad A.
Building KSC 2 NASA Facts
 
 An emergency egress system was part o the pad A contract. I a hazardous condition were to arise thatallowed sae egress rom the spacecrat, the astronautscould cross over to the mobile launcher on a swing arm.Tey would then ride one o the high-speed elevators tolevel A, slide down an escape tube to a thickly paddedrubber deceleration ramp, and enter -- through steel doors-- a blast room, which could withstand an on-the-padexplosion o the entire space vehicle.Tose inside could stay alive or at least 24 hours toallow rescue crews time to dig them out.
Transportation to the Pad
o lit, hold and move what would be the largest, tall-est and heaviest known portable structures on Earth, thecrawler-transporter was designed. Adapted rom sel-propelled, strip-mining shovels, themassive machines weighed 5.5 million pounds unloaded.Tis alone required a special roadway to support loadsnever envisioned or a public road -- in excess o 127,867pounds (58,000 kilograms) per square meter. Te design would comprise dual trackways, separated by a medianstrip, and would consist o more than three eet (1 meter)o selected sub-base material, topped by 3 eet (1 meter) o graded crushed aggregate, with a blacktop sealer over all. A service road would border the south side o thecrawlerway rom the VAB to pad A. Underground ductsor communication and instrumentation lines to link thecontrol and assembly areas with the launch pads wouldparallel the north side o the crawlerway; power line ductsand a pipeline or drinking water would go along thesouth side. Where any o the ducts or pipes had to pass be-neath the crawlerway, the access tunnels had to be capableo withstanding the load conditions.Te completed crawlerway would be level with the ter-rain, 7.5 eet (2.3 meters) above sea level.Te converter-compressor acility was built just northo the crawlerway, about one-third o the distance romthe VAB to pad A. It consisted o a one-story equipmentbuilding and a 1,892,000-liter spherical tank or storingliquid nitrogen, together with an access road and pavedparking areas. A railroad spur brought tank-car loadso helium and nitrogen to the acility. Its evaporators,compressors and pumps, in turn, supplied high-pressuregaseous nitrogen and helium to storage and distributionacilities at the VAB and the launch area.Te land clearing, channel dredging and sand ll wascompleted by September 1963. Six months later, similareorts began or launch pad B, plus construction o thecauseway rom Cape Canaveral to Merritt Island east o the industrial area.
Mobile Launcher Platform
 Along with the massive rockets to be moved by thecrawler-transporter, the mobile launcher was part o thecargo.In planning and building the mobile launcher, themost difcult eatures were the nine swing arms, or servicearms, as they were also called, that would provide person-nel access and support electrical cables, propellant linesand pneumatic lines to the launch vehicle.Te service arms were to be amazingly complexpieces o equipment. For example, as many as 24 electriccables, each 50 millimeters in diameter, and about 44 uidservice lines, ranging rom 12 to 25 millimeters thick, went into a single umbilical carrier. Each arm would be wide enough or a jeep to drive across -- though none ever was to do so. Teir length varied with the conguration o the vehicle; they would average more than 22 metric tonsin weight.Prior to the rocket’s rst motion, ve arms woulddisconnect and begin withdrawal. Arms 4 and 6, provid-ing hydrogen vent ducting and the instrumentation unit, would retract at lito.Since plans called or the construction o the mobileservice structure on the parking site, this acility wouldhave to support considerable loads. Te service structure would weigh 4,763 metric tons. When the crawler-trans-porter moved beneath it, the total load on the parkingposition would be nearly 7,500 metric tons, heavier thanthe USS Halsey, a guided missile rigate.In addition to this, calculations showed that, should wind velocities reach 200 kilometers per hour, the servicestructure, standing by itsel on its our support legs in theparked position, with side struts and hold-down arms oreach leg, could exert about 6,300 metric tons o orce. o withstand these anticipated orces, the parking site had tohave a heavily reinorced base.
 The fame trench bisects the launch pad.
Building KSC 3 NASA Facts

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