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The John F. Kennedy Space Center comprises Administration and the other by the Department of
two federal installations which form the major Defense.
launch base for the national space program. One The NASA facility occupies 88,000 acres on
is operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Merritt Island, Florida. It extends 35 miles in a

The AppllolSaturn V leaves the Vehicle Assembly Building at launch Complex 39 bound for Launch Pad A three and one-
half miles away. The structure at the lower right is the Launch Control Center.
Close up view of the First (S-1-C)
Stage for the ApollolSaturn V being
erected in one of the High Bays of
the Vehicle Assembly Building.

north-south direction, bounded on the east by the concept requires assembly, integration and final
Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Indian River. checkout of the space vehicle a t the launch pad.
This is the site of the national Spaceport from The method has proved satisfactory in programs to
which United States astronauts will journey to the date. The size and complexity of the Apollol
moon and back. Saturn V rocket, however, prompted evolution of
Adjacent to the NASA installation is the Cape the new mobile launch concept.
Kennedy Air Force Station, a Department of De- This concept consists of assembly, integration,
fense facility managed by the United States Air and checkout of a space vehicle in the protected
Force. Launch complexes constructed and oper- environment of a building. Then the flight ready
ated by NASA for manned and unmanned space ex- vehicle is transported to the launch site. There,
ploration missions are located at the Cape. Other following final servicing and propellant loading,
complexes are utilized by the Army, Air Force and the vehicle is launched.
Navy for the launch of defense weapons systems One of the major benefits realized in the mobile
and space vehicles. launch concept is a substantial reduction in the
The Cape Kennedy Air Force Station is Station time a launch pad and supporting facilities are
Number 1 of the Eastern Test Range which in- engaged in preparation for a mission. Manned
cludes United States-owned tracking stations on Mercury and Gemini flights, for instance, required
islands stretching southeastward 10,000 miles to pad times of several months. For Apollo missions,
the Indian Ocean. These stations are instrumented the mobile launch concept can eventually reduce
with electronic and optical systems for tracking and pad time to about 13 days.
obtaining in-flight operation data on both NASA The Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex
and military vehicles and spacecraft. 39 provides the facilities to implement the mobile
Approximately 35,000 persons are employed in concept in support of the Apollo program.
the launch programs at the two installations. Most The hub of operations a t Launch Complex 39 is
work for aerospace companies that are members the Vehicle Assembly Building or VAB, as it is pop-
of the goverment-industry team which assembles, ularly known. Approximately 52 stories high and
tests, prepares and launches rockets of varying containing 129,482,000 cubic feet of interior
sizes designed for specific space exploration tasks. space, it is the world’s largest building. Assembly
While Department of Defense activities at the of the 363-foot-tall Apollo/Saturn V space vehicles
Kennedy Space Center are concerned primarily take place inside the VAB.
with the development of weapons systems, NASA is The building contains two operational areas: a
engaged in the peaceful exploration of space. low bay area 210 feet high and a high bay area
Following the establishment of NASA on Octo- 525 feet high. The low bay houses eight preparation
ber 1, 1958, various government organizations and checkout cells for the second and third stages
previously engaged in launch operations at Cape of the rocket. The high bay contains four vertical
Canavera’l (now Cape Kennedy) were consolidated bays for assembly, integration and checkout of the
under the direction of the NASA Launch Operations launch vehicle and spacecraft.
Center, later renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Located southeast of the VAB and connected to
Center, NASA. With the activation of the national it is the Launch Control Center. This four-story
Spaceport, the NASA Center moved t o the present structure is the electronic brain of Launch Com-
Merritt Island location. plex 39. It contains four control and firing rooms,
Since the United States’ first satellite was one for each corresponding high bay in the VAB.
launched in 1958, a fixed launch concept has Each firing room is equipped to checkout and
been employed in all major NASA programs. This launch a space vehicle independently of the others.
ApoIlolSaturn V space vehicles are assembled 17 work platforms and distribution equipment for
inside the high bays of the VAB on structures propellant, pneumatic, electrical and instrumenta-
known as Mobile Launchers. The base of each tion system. Mounted at the top of the tower is a
structure is a two-story platform which houses com- 25-ton hammerhead crane. There are three Mobile
puter systems, digitally controlled equipment for Launchers at the Spaceport. Each stands 445 feet
propellant loading, hydraulic test sets, propellant tall and weighs approximately 12,000,000 pounds.
and pneumatic lines, electrical power systems and Transportation, the key to the mobile launch
water systems. At one end of the platform is a concept, is provided by two tracked vehicles
380-foot steel tower that provides support for nine known as Transporters. Each vehicle is 131 feet
swing arms (for direct access to the space vehicle), long, 114 feet wide and weighs about 6,000,000

Site plan of Cape Kennedy, Florida,

including the Kennedy Space Center
and Patrick Air Force Base.
pounds. These units transfer the Mobile Launch-
ers into the VAB to serve as assembly platforms for
the space vehicles. After assembly and checkout
of a space vehicle, a Transporter reenters the VAB,
raises the Mobile Launcher with the assembled
rocket, then transfers them three and one-half miles
to a launch pad.
During the trip to the launch pad, the Transporter
travels over a specially constructed roadbed 130
feet wide and divided by a 50-foot median strip. Aerial view of Cape Kennedy looking
north. In the foreground are Launch
Complex 36A and 36B from which
At las-Centaur vehicles have hurled
unmanned Surveyor spacecraft
to soft landings on the moon.

The roadbed is approximately eight feet thick and preparation buildings. Apollo astronauts complete
can support loads up to 18,000,000 pounds, the their preflight training in this area, employing
combined weight of the Transporter, Mobile simulators which duplicate the conditions they will
Launcher and Apollo/Saturn V space vehicle. encounter in space. The area also contains ware-
Two launch sites are located a t Complex 39. houses, medical facilities and other supporting
Each site is an irregular eight-sided polygon meas- elements.
uring 3,000 feet across. The major elements of the Cape Kennedy, is a prime launching site for the
launch sites include storage tanks for rocket pro- nation’s missile and space programs. Located ap-
pellants, gas compressor facilities, electrical and proximately two miles east of the Kennedy Space
communications systems, associated umbilical Center’s Merritt Island facilities, the Cape takes in
connections, the launch pads and various support- a 27-square-mile area which was mostly unin-
ing equipment. habited scrubland prior to 1950. It is bordered by
The launch pads, occupying the center of each the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Banana
launch site, are reinforced concrete hardstands River on the west.
measuring 390 feet by 325 feet. At the surface of Along the southern edge of the Cape is a deep
each pad are six mount mechanisms to secure the water port to service the Eastern Test Range’s
Mobile Launcher with the flight ready space vehi- fleet of tracking ships, Navy ships and nuclear sub-
cle. Surface height of the pads is 48 feet, sufficient marines used in the Navy’s Polaris missile develop-
distance for the rocket’s engine nozzles to rest ment program. Within the Cape’s boundaries are
above a 1,300,000-pound flame deflector. complete assembly and launch facilities for bal-
Located near the launch sites is a 402-foot steel listic missiles and space vehicles, storage and dis-
truss tower known as the Mobile Service Structure. persing stations for rocket fuels, and a landing strip
After the Transporter has deposited the Mobile for delivery of rocket stages, spacecraft, and other
Launcher and space vehicle on the launch pad, it hardware from the manufacturer to the launch
returns to the service structure parking area, picks sites.
up the Mobile Service Structure and deposits it on The Cape was activated by the Department of
four mounted pedestals on the launch pad adjacent Defense as a missile test center in May 1949 and
to the Mobile Launcher and vehicle. Weighing assigned to the Air Force for management. The
more than 9,800,000 pounds, the Mobile Service first rocket launches from the Cape occurred
Structure provides 360-degree access to the rocket July 24, 1950. Since then, all branches of the mili-
for final launch preparations at the pad. The Mobile tary have utilized the Cape’s facilities for the de-
Service Structure is returned to its parking area velopment of defense weapons systems.
by the Transporter before launch. With the orderly growth of the national space
Launch Complex 39 contains a barge terminal program and its emphasis on the peaceful explora-
facility, consisting of an access canal, a turning tion of space, NASA has become a prime user of the
basin, dock, barge slips and a materials handling Cape and Eastern Test Range. NASA’s major launch
area. The access canal is provided for marine barge organization, the Kennedy Space Center, operates
vessels which deliver launch vehicle stages and and maintains launch facilities on the Cape to con-
related components as well as other types of heavy duct manned and unmanned space launches.
equipment. The canal runs eastward to the Banana The largest of these facilities are Launch Com-
River, which in turn leads to the Atlantic Ocean via plexes 3 4 and 37 which were designed for the first
Port Canaveral. and second generation Saturn rockets. Complex
Five miles south of the launch area are the 34 became operational in October 1961 with the
Headquarters of the Kennedy Space Center, NASA, launch of the first Saturn I vehicle. Complex 37
and administrative, engineering and spacecraft was activated shortly afterward. At the completion
Members of the Kennedy Space Center's
integrated government-industry launch
team man consoles in the blockhouse
at Complex 37, Cape Kennedy, during
launch of the third uprated Saturn
vehicle on July 5, 1966.

of the Saturn I program, both launch complexes launched by an Atlas booster stage, has success-
were modified to accommodate the more power- fully powered unmanned Surveyor spacecraft to
ful uprated Saturn I rocket which is capable of landings on the moon. These sophisticated robots
placing the three-man Apollo spacecraft or the are exploring the lunar surface and environment
lunar module into earth orbit. Manned Apollo in detail preliminary to manned landings.
flights from these complexes will enable astronauts Complexes 12 and 13 are utilized by NASA for
to practice rendezvous and docking techniques Atlas/Agena rockets which launched Ranger and
vital to the success of the forthcoming manned Lunar Orbiter spacecraft on photographic missions
lunar landing. to the moon and Mariner spacecraft on flyby mis-
Complexes 36A and 36B are the second largest sions to the planets Mars and Venus. Other
launch complexes on the Cape and were designed launches originating from these complexes include
for the Centaur vehicle, the first United States orbiting geophysical and astronomical observator-
rocket to employ liquid hydrogen as a fuel. Centaur, ies and advanced technological satellites.
The busiest launch site on Cape Kennedy is were the launch sites for the early Mercury sub-
Launch Complex 17, home of the versatile Delta orbital flights, the nation’s first manned space mis- 0
rocket which has orbited more than half of NASA’s sions. Originating from Complex 14 were the
unmanned satellites. These include Echo, Relay, manned earth-orbiting missions of the Mercury
Telstar, Syncom and Early Bird communications program. This launch site was also used for the
satellites; the TIROS and ESSA weather reconnais- Gemini/Atlas-Agena target vehicles of the Gemini
sance series; and scientific satellites such as program. The successful Gemini manned space
Explorer, Pioneer, Interplanetary Monitoring Plat- flight series originated from Complex 19.
form, Geodetic Explorer and Orbiting Solar Obser- Also located on the Cape are launch and test
vatory. facilities for the Navy’s Polaris and Poseidon mis-
Several launch complexes on Cape Kennedy Force’s Minuteman I I ICBM. In
though no longer in active service, are historically Force operates and maintains a
significant. Complex 26, now the Air Force Space Titan I I I-C Integrate-Transfer complex located ad-
Museum, was the launch site for the first United
States satellite, Explorer I. Complexes 5 and 6

nedy .Space Center

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Kennedy Space Center, Florida 32899