Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39

Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, United States. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified for the Space Shuttle program. As of 2017, only Launch Complex 39A is active, launching SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Pad 39B is being modified to launch NASA's Space Launch System. A new, smaller pad, 39C was added in 2015 to support smaller launches but has not yet been used.

Launch Complex 39 is composed of three launch pads—39A, 39B and 39C, a Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a Crawlerway used by crawler-transporters to carry Mobile Launcher Platforms between the VAB and the pads, Orbiter Processing Facility buildings, a Launch Control Center which contains the firing rooms, a news facility famous for the iconic countdown clock seen in television coverage and photos, and various logistical and operational support buildings.[2]

SpaceX leases Launch Pad 39A from NASA and has modified the pad to support Falcon Heavy launches in 2017 and beyond.[3][4] NASA began modifying Launch Pad 39B in 2007 to accommodate the now defunct Project Constellation, and is currently preparing it for the Space Launch System[5][6] with first launch scheduled for December 2019.[7] Pad C was originally planned for Apollo but never built, and would have been a copy of pads 39A and 39B. A smaller pad, designated 39C was constructed from January to June 2015 to accommodate small-class vehicles.[8]

NASA launches from LC-39A and 39B have been supervised from the NASA Launch Control Center (LCC), located 3 miles (4.8 km) from the launch pads. LC-39 is one of several launch sites that share radar and tracking services of the Eastern Test Range.

Launch Complex 39
VAB Aerial - GPN-2000-000869
Aerial view of Launch Complex 39, showing the Vehicle Assembly Building (front), and launch pads 39B (back left) and 39A (back right)
Launch siteKennedy Space Center
Location28°36′30.2″N 80°36′15.6″W / 28.608389°N 80.604333°W
Short nameLC-39
OperatorNASA
Total launches169 (13 Saturn V, 4 Saturn IB, 135 Shuttle, 1 Ares I, 15 Falcon 9, 1 Falcon Heavy)
Launch pad(s)3
Min / max
orbital inclination
28°–62°
Pad 39A launch history
StatusActive
Launches110 (12 Saturn V, 82 Shuttle, 15 Falcon 9, 1 Falcon Heavy)
First launchNovember 9, 1967
Saturn V / Apollo 4
Last launchMarch 2, 2019
Falcon 9 Block 5 / Crew Dragon Demo-1
Associated
rockets
Pad 39B launch history
StatusFacility modifications underway for mid 2020 SLS launch
Launches59 (1 Saturn V, 4 Saturn IB, 53 Shuttle, 1 Ares I-X)
First launchMay 18, 1969
Saturn V / Apollo 10
Last launchOctober 28, 2009
Ares I-X
Associated
rockets
Pad 39C launch history
StatusCompleted June 2015
LaunchesTo be determined
Associated
rockets
Electron
Launch Complex 39
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 is located in Florida
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 is located in the United States
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
LocationJohn F. Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, Florida
Area7,000 acres (2,800 ha)
Built1967
MPSJohn F. Kennedy Space Center MPS
NRHP reference #73000568[1]
Added to NRHPMay 24, 1973
Launch Complex 39--Pad A
LocationJohn F. Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, Florida
Area160 acres (65 ha)
Built1964-1968
MPSJohn F. Kennedy Space Center MPS
NRHP reference #99001638[1]
Added to NRHPJanuary 21, 2000
Launch Complex 39--Pad B
LocationJohn F. Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, Florida
Area160 acres (65 ha)
Built1967-1968
MPSJohn F. Kennedy Space Center MPS
NRHP reference #99001639[1]
Added to NRHPJanuary 21, 2000

History

Early history

Northern Merritt Island was first developed around 1890 when a few wealthy Harvard University graduates purchased 18,000 acres (73 km2) and constructed a three-story mahogany clubhouse, very nearly on the site of Pad 39A.[9] During the 1920s, Peter E. Studebaker Jr., son of the automobile magnate, built a small casino at De Soto Beach eight miles (13  km) north of the Canaveral lighthouse.[10]

In 1948, the Navy transferred the former Banana River Naval Air Station located south of Cape Canaveral, to the Air Force for use in testing captured German V-2 rockets.[11] The site's location on the East Florida coast was ideal for this purpose in that launches would be over the ocean, away from populated areas. This site became the Joint Long Range Proving Ground in 1949 and was renamed Patrick Air Force Base in 1950. The Air Force annexed part of Cape Canaveral to the North in 1951, forming the Air Force Missile Test Center, the future Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). Missile and rocketry testing and development would take place here through the 1950s.[12]

After the creation of NASA in 1958, the CCAFS launch pads were used for NASA's civilian unmanned and manned launches, including those of Project Mercury and Project Gemini.[13]

Apollo and Skylab

In 1961, President Kennedy proposed to Congress the goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. Congressional approval led to the launch of the Apollo program, which required a massive expansion of NASA operations, including an expansion of launch operations from the Cape to adjacent Merritt Island to the north and west.[14] NASA began acquisition of land in 1962, taking title to 131 square miles (340 km2) by outright purchase and negotiating with the state of Florida for an additional 87 square miles (230 km2). On July 1, 1962, the site was named the Launch Operations Center.[15]

Initial design

Lc39 plan 1963 labelled
Launch Complex Plan – 1963
Lc39 warning lamps
Warning lamps for the planned 3 pads, including the unbuilt pad C

At the time, the highest numbered launch pad on CCAFS was Launch Complex 37; when the lunar launch complex was designed, it was designated as Launch Complex 39. It was designed to handle launches of the Saturn V rocket, the largest, most powerful rocket then designed, which would propel Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. Initial plans included four pads (five were considered) evenly spaced 8,700 feet (2,700 m) apart to avoid damage in the event of an explosion on the pad. Three were scheduled for construction (A-C, to the southeast) and two (D and E, west and north) would have been built at a later date. The numbering of the pads at the time was from north to south, with the northernmost being 39A, and the southernmost being 39C. Pad 39A was never built, and 39C became 39A in 1963. With today's numbering, 39C would have been north of 39B, and 39D would have been due west of 39C. Pad 39E would have been due north of the mid-distance between 39C and 39D, with 39E forming the top of a triangle, and equidistant from 39C and 39D. The Crawlerway was built with the additional pads in mind. This is the reason the Crawlerway turns as it heads to Pad B; continuing straight from that turn would have led to the additional pads.[16]

Integration of space vehicle stack

69-HC-620 - SA506
Apollo-Saturn 506 with Apollo 11 spacecraft being moved from the VAB to LC39A (1969)
Crawler-Transporter
A restored Crawler-Transporter (2004)

Months before launch, the three stages of the Saturn V launch vehicle and the components of the Apollo spacecraft were brought inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and assembled in one of four high bays into a 363-foot (111 m)-tall space vehicle on one of three Mobile Launchers. Each mobile launcher consisted of a two-story, 161-by-135-foot (49 by 41 m) launch platform with four hold-down arms and a 446-foot (136 m) Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) topped by a crane used to lift the spacecraft into position for assembly. The MLP and unfueled vehicle together weighed 12,600,000 pounds (5,715 t).[17]

The Umbilical Tower contained two elevators and nine retractable swing arms which extended to the space vehicle, to provide access to each of the three rocket stages and the spacecraft for people, wiring and plumbing while the vehicle was on the launch pad, and swung away from the vehicle at launch.[17][18] Technicians, engineers, and astronauts used the uppermost Spacecraft Access Arm to access the crew cabin. At the end of the arm, the white room provided an environmentally controlled and protected area for astronauts and their equipment to enter the spacecraft.[19]

Transportation to the pad

When the stack integration was completed, it was moved the 3–4 miles (4.8–6.4 km) to the pad at a speed of 1 mile per hour (1.6 km/h) by one of two Crawler-Transporters. Each crawler weighed 6,000,000 pounds (2,720 t) and was capable of keeping the space vehicle on its Mobile Launcher level while negotiating a 5 percent grade to the pad. At the pad, the MLP was supported by six steel pedestals, plus four additional extensible columns.[17]

Mobile Service Structure

Saturn V and service structures
Saturn V with fixed (left) and mobile (right) service structures
LC-39A walkway
Apollo-era walkway and white room, on display at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

After the MLP was set in place, the Crawler-Transporter rolled a 410-foot (125 m), 10,490,000-pound (4,760 t) Mobile Service Structure (MSS) into place to provide further access for technicians to perform detailed checkout of the vehicle, and necessary umbilical connections to the pad. The MSS contained three elevators, two self-propelled platforms and three fixed platforms, and was rolled back 6,900 feet (2,100 m) to its parking position shortly before launch.[17]

Flame deflector

A flame deflector was slid on rails into place under the launch pedestal. This system allowed for rotation with a second flame deflector, after the first was refurbished after each launch. Each deflector measured 39 feet (12 m) high by 49 feet (15 m) wide by 75 feet (23 m) long and weighed 1,400,000 pounds (635 t). It deflected the exhaust flame into a trench measuring 43 feet (13 m) deep by 59 feet (18 m) wide by 449 feet (137 m) long.[17]

Launch control and fueling

The four-story Launch Control Center was located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) away from Pad A, adjacent to the Vehicle Assembly Building for safety. The third floor had four firing rooms (corresponding to the four high bays in the VAB), each with 470 sets of control and monitoring equipment. The second floor contained telemetry, tracking, instrumentation, and data reduction computing equipment. The LCC was connected to the Mobile Launchers by a high-speed data link, and during launch a system of 62 closed-circuit television cameras transmitted to 100 monitor screens in the LCC.[17]

Large cryogenic tanks located near the pads stored the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (LOX) for the second and third stages of the Saturn V. The highly explosive nature of these chemicals required numerous safety measures at the Launch Complex. The pads were located 8,730 feet (2,660 m) away from each other.[17] Before tanking operations began and during launch, non-essential personnel were excluded from the danger area.

Emergency evacuation system

Each pad had a 200-foot (61 m) evacuation tube running from the Mobile Launcher platform to a blast-resistant bunker 39 feet (12 m) underground, equipped with survival supplies for 20 persons for 24 hours. There was also a cab/slidewire system running from the 322-foot (98 m) tower level to evacuate astronauts and technicians 2,503 feet (763 m) away from the pad.[20]

Pad Terminal Connection Room

Connections between the Launch Control Center, mobile launcher platform and space vehicle are made in the Pad Terminal Connection Room (PTCR). The facility was a two-story series of rooms beneath the launch pad, constructed of reinforced concrete located on the west side of the flame trench and was protected by up to 20 feet (6.1 m) of fill dirt.[21][22]

Apollo and Skylab launches

Apollo 11 Saturn V lifting off on July 16, 1969
Apollo 11, carrying the first men to land on the Moon, lifts off from pad 39A, July 16, 1969
ASTP Launch - GPN-2000-000643
Final launch of Saturn IB from pad 39B, carrying the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Command Module into orbit, July 1975

The first use of LC-39 came in 1967 with the first Saturn V launch, carrying the unmanned Apollo 4 spacecraft. The second unmanned launch, Apollo 6, also used Pad 39A. With the exception of Apollo 10, which used Pad 39B (due to the "all-up" testing resulting in a 2-month turnaround period), all manned Apollo-Saturn V launches, commencing with Apollo 8, used Pad 39A.

A total of thirteen Saturn Vs were launched for Apollo, and the unmanned launch of the Skylab space station in 1973. The mobile launchers were then modified for the shorter Saturn IB rockets, by adding a "milk-stool" extension platform to the launch pedestal, so that the S-IVB upper stage and Apollo spacecraft swing arms would reach. These were used for three manned Skylab flights and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, since the Saturn IB pads 34 and 37 at Cape Canaveral AFB had been decommissioned.[23][24]

Space Shuttle

The thrust to allow the Space Shuttle to achieve orbit was provided by a combination of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs). The SRBs used solid propellant, hence their name. The SSMEs used a combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (LOX) from the External Tank (ET), as the orbiter did not have internal fuel tanks for the SSMEs (they would have had to be as large as the External Tank). The SRBs arrived in segments via rail car from their manufacturing facility in Utah, the External Tank arrived from its manufacturing facility in Louisiana by barge, and the orbiter waited in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF). The SRBs were first stacked in the VAB, and then the External Tank was mounted between them. Then, using a massive crane, the orbiter was lowered and connected to the External Tank.

Payload to be installed at the launch pad was independently transported in a payload transportation canister then installed vertically at the Payload Changeout Room. Otherwise, payloads would have already been pre-installed at the Orbiter Processing Facility and transported within the orbiter's cargo bay.

The original structure of the pads was remodeled for the needs of the Space Shuttle, starting with Pad 39A after the last Saturn V launch, and in 1977 for Pad 39B after the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

Columbia.sts-1.01

Columbia standing on pad 39A, ready for its first orbital flight (STS-1, April 1981). The Rotating Service Structure has been rolled away in preparation for launch.

STS-129 Atlantis Ready to Fly - edit1

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is seen on launch pad 39A at the NASA Kennedy Space Center shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back on Nov. 15, 2009.

Launch towers

Each pad contained a two-piece access tower system, the Fixed Service Structure (FSS) and the Rotating Service Structure (RSS). The FSS permitted access to the Shuttle via a retractable arm and a "beanie cap" to capture vented LOX from the External Tank. The RSS contained the Payload Changeout Room, which offered "clean" access to the orbiter's payload bay, protection from the elements, and protection in winds up to 60 knots (110 km/h).

The FSS on Pad 39A was constructed from most of the umbilical tower of Mobile Launcher 2, while the FSS that was on 39B was constructed from most of the umbilical tower of Mobile Launcher 3.

Sound suppression water system

A Sound Suppression Water System (SSWS) was added to protect the Space Shuttle and its payload from effects of the intense sound wave pressure generated by its engines. An elevated water tank on a 290-foot (88 m) tower near each pad stored 300,000 gallons (1.1 Megalitres) of water, which was released onto the Mobile Launcher Platform just before engine ignition.[25] The water muffled the intense sound waves produced by the engines. Due to heating of the water, a large quantity of steam and water vapor was produced during launch.

Swing arm modifications

Launch Pad 39A KSC White Room Access Arm Walkway
The doors to the White Room, which provided entry to the Shuttle crew compartment, are seen here at the end of the access arm walkway

The Gaseous Oxygen Vent Arm positioned a hood, often called the "Beanie Cap," over the top of the External Tank (ET) nose cone during fueling. Heated gaseous nitrogen was used there to remove the extremely cold gaseous oxygen that normally vented out of the External Tank. This prevented the formation of ice that could fall and damage the shuttle.[26]

The Hydrogen Vent Line Access Arm mated the External Tank (ET) Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) to the launch pad hydrogen vent line. The GUCP provided support for plumbing and cables, called umbilicals, that transferred fluids, gases, and electrical signals between two pieces of equipment. While the ET was being fueled, hazardous gas was vented from an internal hydrogen tank through the GUCP, out a vent line to a flare stack where it was burned off at a safe distance. Sensors at the GUCP measured gas level. The GUCP was redesigned after leaks created scrubs of STS-127 and were also detected during attempts to launch STS-119 and STS-133.[27] The GUCP released from the ET at launch and fell away with a curtain of water sprayed across it for protection from flames.

Emergency pad evacuation

Astroescape
M113 armored personnel carriers parked near LC-39

In an emergency, the launch complex used a slidewire escape basket system for quick evacuation. Assisted by members of the closeout team, the crew would leave the orbiter and ride an emergency basket to the ground at speeds reaching up to 55 miles per hour (89 km/h).[28] From there, the crew took shelter in a bunker. A modified M113 Armored Personnel Carrier could carry injured astronauts away from the complex to safety.[29]

During the launch of Discovery on STS-124 on May 31, 2008, the pad at LC-39A suffered extensive damage, in particular to the concrete trench used to deflect the SRB's flames.[30] The subsequent mishap investigation found that the damage was the result of carbonation of epoxy and corrosion of steel anchors which held the refractory bricks in the trench in place. These had been exacerbated by the fact that hydrochloric acid is an exhaust by-product of the solid rocket boosters.[31]

Space Shuttle launches

After the launch of Skylab in 1973, Pad 39A was reconfigured for the Space Shuttle, with shuttle launches beginning in 1981 with STS-1, flown by the Space Shuttle Columbia.[32] After Apollo 10, Pad 39B was kept as a backup launch facility in the case of the destruction of 39A, but saw service for all three Skylab missions, the Apollo-Soyuz test flight, and a contingency Skylab Rescue flight that never became necessary. After the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, 39B was reconfigured similarly to 39A, but due to additional modifications (mainly to allow the facility to service a modified Centaur-G upper stage), along with budgetary restraints, it was not ready until 1986, and the first shuttle flight to use it was STS-51-L, which ended with the Challenger disaster. The first return to flight mission STS-26 launched from 39B.

Constellation Program and Pad 39B

Ares I-X launch 08
Ares I-X launches from LC-39B, 15:30 UTC, October 28, 2009

The last Shuttle launch from Pad 39B was the nighttime launch of STS-116 on December 9, 2006. To support the final Shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope STS-125 launched from Pad 39A in May 2009, Endeavour was placed on 39B if needed to launch the STS-400 rescue mission.

After the completion of STS-125, 39B was converted for the single test flight of the Constellation Program Ares I-X from Pad 39B on October 28, 2009.[33] This program was later cancelled.

2011–2013

With the retirement of the Shuttle in 2011,[34] and the cancellation of Constellation Program in 2010, the future of the LC-39 pads was uncertain. By early 2011, NASA began informal discussions on use of the pads and facilities by private companies to fly missions for the commercial space market,[35] culminating in a 20-year lease agreement with SpaceX for Pad 39A.[36]

Pad 39A

Just like the first 24 shuttle flights, Pad 39A supported the final manifested shuttle flights, starting with STS-117 in June 2007 until the retirement of the shuttle fleet in July 2011. Prior to the SpaceX lease agreement, the pad remained as it was when Atlantis launched on the final shuttle mission on July 8, 2011, complete with a mobile launcher platform.

PAD 39A lease announcement
KSC Director Bob Cabana announces the signing of the pad 39A lease agreement on April 14, 2014. SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell stands nearby.

In 1997 the pad was the proposed as the site of the first machine for the film Contact.

Talks for use of the pad were underway between NASA and Space Florida—the State of Florida's economic development agency—as early as 2011, but no deal materialized by 2012 and NASA then pursued other options for removing the pad from the Federal government inventory.[37]

By early 2013, NASA publicly announced that it would allow commercial launch providers to lease Pad 39A,[38] and followed that, in May 2013, with a formal solicitation for proposals for commercial use of Launch Pad 39A.[39] There were two competing bids for the commercial use of the launch complex.[40] SpaceX submitted a bid for exclusive use of the launch complex, while Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin submitted a bid for shared non-exclusive use of the complex such that the launchpad would interface with multiple vehicles, and costs could be shared over the long term. One potential shared user in the Blue Origin plan was United Launch Alliance.[41] Prior to completion of the bid period, and prior to any public announcement by NASA of the results of the process, Blue Origin filed a protest with the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) "over what it says is a plan by NASA to award an exclusive commercial lease to SpaceX for use of mothballed space shuttle launch pad 39A."[42] NASA had planned to complete the bid award and have the pad transferred by October 1, 2013, but the protest "will delay any decision until the GAO reaches a decision, expected by mid-December."[42] On December 12, 2013, the GAO denied the protest and sided with NASA, which argued that the solicitation contains no preference on the use of the facility as multi-use or single-use. "The [solicitation] document merely asks bidders to explain their reasons for selecting one approach instead of the other and how they would manage the facility."[43]

On December 13, 2013, NASA announced that they had selected SpaceX as the new commercial tenant.[44] SpaceX signed the lease agreement on April 14, 2014.[36] SpaceX has been given a 20-year exclusive lease of Pad 39A.[40] SpaceX plans to launch their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy from the pad and build a new hangar near it.[40][36][45] Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has stated that he wants to shift most of their NASA launches to Pad 39A, including Commercial Cargo and Crew missions to the International Space Station.[44][46]

Launch history

Pad 39B launches

Current status

LC39A and LC39B
A 2006 aerial view of both launch pads at the complex, 39A (foreground) and 39B

Launch Pad 39A

SpaceX Demo-1 (NHQ201903010002)
Launch Complex 39A during the Crew Demo-1 mission to the ISS in February 2019, showing the crew access arm and the remodeled 39A service structure.

On April 14, 2014, the privately owned launch service provider SpaceX signed a 20-year lease for Launch Pad 39A.[47] The pad was modified to support launches of both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, which included the construction of a horizontal integration facility, similar to that used at existing SpaceX-leased facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg Air Force Base – this is a marked difference from the vertical integration process used by NASA's own Apollo and Space Shuttle vehicles at the Launch Complex 39. Additionally new instrumentation and control systems were installed, and substantial new plumbing was added for a variety of rocket liquids and gases.[48][49]

Construction and first launch

SpaceX HIF at KSC LC-39A (27550168066)
SpaceX Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF)
Deluge system test at pad 39A (February 2017)
Falcon 9 and Dragon lift off from Launch Pad 39A for CRS-10 (33000638185)
The SpaceX CRS-10 mission lifts off to the International Space Station (February 2017)
Landed rockets in hangar 39A (26428480464)
Falcon 9 first-stage boosters recovered after landing (inside the HIF, May 2016)

In 2015, SpaceX built a large Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) just outside the perimeter of the existing launch pad in order to house both the Falcon 9, and the Falcon Heavy, rockets, and their associated hardware and payloads, during preparation for flight.[50] Both types of launch vehicles will be transported from the HIF to the launch pad aboard a Transporter Erector (TE) which will ride on rails up the former Crawlerway path.[37][50] Also in 2015, the launch mount for the Falcon Heavy was constructed on Pad 39A over the existing infrastructure.[51][52] The work on both the HIF building, and the pad, were substantially complete by late 2015.[53] A rollout test of the new Transporter/Erector (TE) was conducted in November 2015.[54]

SpaceX indicated in February 2016 that they had "completed and activated Launch Complex 39A",[55] but still has more work yet to do to support crewed flights. SpaceX originally planned to be ready to accomplish the first launch at pad 39A — a Falcon Heavy — as early as 2015,[48] as they had architects and engineers working on the new design and modifications since 2013.[56][51] By late 2014, a preliminary date for a wet dress rehearsal of the Falcon Heavy was set for no earlier than July 1, 2015.[37] Due to a failure in a June 2015 Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX had to delay launching the Falcon Heavy in order to focus on the Falcon 9's failure investigation and its return to flight.[57] In early 2016, considering the busy Falcon 9 launch manifest, it became unclear if Falcon Heavy would be the first vehicle to launch from Pad 39A, or if one or more Falcon 9 missions would precede a Falcon Heavy launch.[55] The following months, the Falcon Heavy launch was delayed multiple times and eventually pushed back to February 2018.[58]

The first SpaceX launch from pad 39A was SpaceX CRS-10 using a Falcon 9 on February 19, 2017; it was the company's 10th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station,[59] and the first unmanned launch from 39A since Skylab.

SpaceX launch history

While SLC-40 was undergoing reconstruction after the loss of the AMOS-6 satellite on September 1, 2016, all SpaceX's east coast launches were launched from LC-39A until SLC-40 became operational again in December 2017. These included the May 1, 2017 launch of NROL-76, the first SpaceX mission for the National Reconnaissance Office with a classified payload.[60]

Falcon-heavy-crop
Launch Complex 39A during pad testing of the first Falcon Heavy rocket in December 2017

On February 6, 2018, LC-39A hosted the successful liftoff of the Falcon Heavy on its maiden launch, carrying Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster car to space.[61], and the first flight of the human-rated spacecraft Crew Dragon took place there on March 2, 2019.

Notable future flights

as of March 2019, future notable missions include:

  • A second Dragon 2 mission, Demonstration Mission 2 (DM-2) scheduled for June 2019 will launch the first crewed mission from LC-39A and the United States since STS-135.[62]
  • The second Falcon Heavy flight is set to launch from this pad carrying the Arabsat 6A communications satellite for Arabsat of Saudi Arabia. The satellite is to provide Ku-band and Ka-band communication services over the Middle East and Northern Africa regions, as well as a small bit for South Africa. Launch date to be determined.[62]
  • The third flight of the Falcon Heavy is set to launch from this pad carrying the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) with a cluster of military and scientific research satellites. Launch date to be determined.[62]

Capabilities

SpaceX utilizes the former Fixed Service Structure (FSS) of the Pad 39A launch towers, and intends to extend it above its former 350-foot (110 m) height, but did not need the Rotating Service Structure (RSS)[37] and removed it beginning in February 2016.[63]

NASA removed the Orbiter Servicing Arm—with intent to use the space later to build a museum—and white room by which astronauts entered the Space Shuttle.[51] SpaceX indicated in late 2014 that additional levels to the FSS would not be added in the near term.[37] SpaceX planned to subsequently add at least two additional levels to the FSS, and will utilize the FSS for providing crew access for the Dragon V2 launches.[64]

SpaceX assembles its launch vehicles horizontally in a hangar near the pad, and transports to the pad horizontally before erecting the vechicle to vertical for the launch.[56] For military missions from Pad 39A, payloads will be vertically integrated, as that is required per launch contract with the US Air Force.[56] A hammerhead crane is planned to be added to the FSS in order to support US military requirements for vertical payload integration.[64]

Pad 39A will be used to host launches of astronauts on the crewed-version of the Dragon space capsule in a public–private partnership with NASA. The NASA plan as of April 2014 called for the first NASA crewed missions in 2017.[56] SpaceX intends to add "a crew gantry access arm and white room to allow for crew and cargo ingress to the vehicle. The existing Space Shuttle evacuation slide-wire basket system will also be re-purposed to provide a safe emergency egress for the Dragon crew in the event of an emergency on the pad that does not necessitate using the Crew Dragon’s launch abort system."[65]

In August 2018, SpaceX's Crew Access Arm (CAA) was installed on a new level which was built at the necessary height to enter the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket.[66] The next month, in September 2018, the refurbished Space Shuttle Emergency Egress System was raised to this new level.

Launch Pad 39B

KSC SLC-39B September 2017
Launch Complex 39B as seen from aerial survey in September 2017

Since the Ares I-X flight, NASA proceeded with plans to strip Pad 39B of its Flight Service Structure (FSS), returning the location to an Apollo-like "clean pad" design for the first time since 1977. This approach will make the pad available to multiple types of vehicles which arrive at the pad with service structures on the mobile launcher platform as opposed to custom structures on the pad.[67] The LH2, LOX, and water tanks (used for the sound suppression system) are the only structures left from the Space Shuttle era.[68][69][70]

As of June 2012, repairs and modifications to selected facility systems at Launch Complex (LC) 39B for Space Launch System (SLS) processing and launch operations are finishing the first phase of a five-phase project. The second phase of this project is currently budgeted at $89.2 million ($6.1 million in FY 2012, $28.5 million in FY 2013, $9.4 million in FY 2014 and $45.2 million in the out years).[71] In March 2015, Pad 39B was undergoing modifications to the Catacomb Roof structure so that it can handle the loads from the SLS Block 1B rocket, increasing the load capacity to support the crawler-transporter and vertical rocket from 21,000,000 to 25,500,000 pounds (9,500,000 to 11,600,000 kg).[68]

In 2014, NASA announced that it would make Pad 39B available to commercial users during times when it is not needed by the Space Launch System.[56] As of May 2017, NASA has one SLS mission scheduled in 2019, and a second one in 2021.[56]

Launch Pad 39C

Launch Pad 39C is a new facility for smaller launch vehicles built in 2015 within the Launch Complex 39B perimeter.

Construction

Construction of the pad began in January 2015 and was completed in June 2015. Kennedy Space Center Director Robert D. Cabana and representatives from the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program and the Center Planning and Development (CPD) and Engineering Directorates marked the completion of the new pad during a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 17, 2015.

"As America's premier spaceport, we're always looking for new and innovative ways to meet America's launch needs, and one area that was missing was small class payloads," Robert D. Cabana said. "Using 21st Century funds, we built Pad 39C."[8]

GSDO oversaw the project and is working with CPD to grow commercial space efforts at Kennedy.[8]

"Pad 39C is the latest addition to our portfolio of launch pads," said Scott Colloredo, CPD director. "The small class market is here. The demand for that kind of launcher is increasing. The key here is this is really what a launch site for a small class launcher needs to look like."[8]

The concrete pad measures about 50 feet (15 m) wide by about 100 feet (30 m) long and could support the combined weight of a fueled launch vehicle, payload and customer-provided launch mount up to about 132,000 pounds (60,000 kg), and an umbilical tower structure, fluid lines, cables and umbilical arms weighing up to about 47,000 pounds (21,000 kg).[8]

GSDO also developed a universal propellant servicing system to provide liquid oxygen and liquid methane fueling capabilities for a variety of small class rockets.[8]

"This is absolutely great to designate a new pad within the confines of Pad 39B. I'm looking forward to having customers here in the not too distant future, making use of this outstanding facility," Robert D. Cabana said[8]

Capabilities

KSC's newest Launch Pad, designated 39C, is designed to accommodate Small Class Vehicles. Located in the southeast area of the Launch Complex 39B perimeter, this new concrete pad measures about 50 feet (15 m) wide by about 100 feet (30 m) long. Launch Complex 39C will serve as a multi-purpose site allowing companies to test vehicles and capabilities in the smaller class of rockets, making it more affordable for smaller companies to break into the commercial spaceflight market.

As part of this capability, NASA's Ground Systems Development and Operations Program developed a universal propellant servicing system, which can provide liquid oxygen and liquid methane fueling capabilities for a variety of small class rockets. This system is slated for operational readiness in the summer of 2016.[8]

With the addition of Launch Complex 39C, KSC can offer the following processing and launching features for companies working with small class vehicles (maximum thrust up to 200,000 pounds-force (890 kN)):[72]

Future development

Kennedy Space Center (KSC) previous Master Plan recommendations in 1966, 1972, and 1977 noted that an expansion of KSC's vertical launch capacity could occur when the market demand existed. The 2007 Site Evaluation Study recommended an additional vertical launch pad, Launch Complex 49 (LC-49), to be sited to the north of existing LC-39B. As part of the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) process, this area was consolidated from two pads (formerly designated in 1963 plans as 39-C and 39-D) to one that provides greater separation from LC-39B. The area was expanded to accommodate a wider variety of launch azimuths, helping protect against potential overflight concerns of LC-39B. This LC-49 launch facility could accommodate medium to large class launch vehicles.[73]

The 2007 Vertical Launch Site Evaluation Study concluded that a vertical launch pad could also be sited to the south of 39A and to the north of pad 41 to accommodate small/medium launch vehicles. Designated as Launch Complex 48 (LC-48), this area is best suited to accommodate small to medium class launch vehicles due to its closer proximity to LC-39A and LC-41. Due to the nature of these activities, QD arcs, launch hazard impact limit lines, other safety setbacks, and exposure limits requirements will be imposed for safe operations.[73] The proposed launchpads were published in the Kennedy Space Center Master Plan in 2012.

The Master Plan also notes a New Vertical Launchpad northwest of LC-39B and a Horizontal Launch Area north of the LC-49 and converting the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and it apron areas into a (2nd) Horizontal Launch Area.[74][73]

Space Florida has proposed that Launch Complex 48 be developed for use by Boeing's Phantom Express and that three landing pads be built for reusable booster systems, to provide more landing options for SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, Blue Origin's New Glenn, and other potential reusable vehicles.[75] The pads would be located east of the Horizontal Launch Area and north of LC 39B[76] Those plans are not in line with NASA's KSC Masterplan.

Gallery

Enterprise KSC 1979

Space Shuttle Enterprise on pad 39A during the fit check tests (1979)

Space shuttles Atlantis (STS-125) and Endeavour (STS-400) on launch pads again

Space Shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour are placed at LC39A and LC39B in preparation for the final service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (May 2009). Endeavour was ready for a contingency mission in case of trouble with Atlantis.

NASA LC39B deconstruction

Removal of the top floor of the fixed service structure on LC39B (March 2011)

Liquid hydrogen storage tank at Launch Pad 39B

Storage tank for liquid hydrogen fuel located just to the Northeast of Kennedy Space Center's former shuttle launch pad 39B

Art of SLS launch

Artist's rendering of the SLS Block 1 crewed variant launching from pad 39B

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration document "Launch Pad 39C".

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External links

Coordinates: 28°36′30″N 80°36′16″W / 28.608397°N 80.604345°W

1965 in architecture

The year 1965 in architecture involved some significant architectural events and new buildings.

AS-201

AS-201 (or SA-201), flown February 26, 1966, was the first unmanned test flight of an entire production Block I Apollo command and service module and the Saturn IB launch vehicle. The spacecraft consisted of the second Block I command module and the first Block I service module. The suborbital flight was a partially successful demonstration of the service propulsion system and the reaction control systems of both modules, and successfully demonstrated the capability of the command module's heat shield to survive re-entry from low Earth orbit.

AS-202

AS-202 (also referred to as SA-202) was the second unmanned, suborbital test flight of a production Block I Apollo command and service module launched with the Saturn IB launch vehicle. It was launched on August 25, 1966, and was the first flight which included the spacecraft guidance and navigation control system and fuel cells. The success of this flight enabled the Apollo program to judge the Block I spacecraft and Saturn IB ready to carry men into orbit on the next mission, AS-204.

Apollo Applications Program

The Apollo Applications Program (AAP) was established by NASA headquarters in 1968 to develop science-based manned space missions using hardware developed for the Apollo program. AAP was the ultimate development of a number of official and unofficial Apollo follow-on projects studied at various NASA labs.

Kennedy Space Center

The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC, originally known as the NASA Launch Operations Center) is one of ten National Aeronautics and Space Administration field centers. Since December 1968, Kennedy Space Center has been NASA's primary launch center of human spaceflight. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by KSC. Located on the east coast of Florida, KSC is adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). The management of the two entities work very closely together, share resources, and even own facilities on each other's property.

Though the first Apollo flights, and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from CCAFS, the launches were managed by KSC and its previous organization, the Launch Operations Directorate. Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center shortly after liftoff; in prior missions it held control throughout the entire mission.Additionally, the center manages launch of robotic and commercial crew missions and researches food production and In-Situ Resource Utilization for off-Earth exploration. Since 2010, the center has worked to become a multi-user spaceport through industry partnerships, even adding a new launch pad (LC-39C) in 2015.

There are about 700 facilities and buildings grouped across the center's 144,000 acres. Among the unique facilities at KSC are the 525 ft tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA's largest rockets, the Launch Control Center, which conducts space launches at KSC, the Operations and Checkout Building, which houses the astronauts dormitories and suit-up area, a Space Station factory, and a 3-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on site.

Launch Complex

Launch Complex may refer to Nike launch sites (e.g., Wallops Flight Facility Launch Area 3), ABM launch sites (e.g., Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex), ICBM launch complexes (e.g., Titan I Missile Complex 1A), Space Launch Complexes (e.g., Tilla Satellite Launch Centre), or to other types of launching sites with the name "Launch Complex":

Ariane Launch Complex

Baikonur Cosmodrome Launch Complex 1

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 1

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34

Green River Launch Complex in Utah for Athena/ABRES testing of reentry vehicles to White Sands

Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39

Launch Complex 39 Press Site

Kodiak Launch Complex

Osaki Launch Complex

Point Arguello Launch Complex A

Point Arguello Launch Complex B

Snark Missile Launch Complex, a FUDS in Maine used as a Cold War base the winged intercontinental missile

Soyuz Launch Complex

Spaceport Florida Launch Complex 46

Taiyuan Launch Complex 1

Titan II ICBM Launch Complex 374-7

Vandenberg AFB Probe Launch Complex C

Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 3

White Sands Launch Complex 33, the post-World War II V-2 Launching Site on the NRHP

White Sands Launch Complex 36

White Sands Launch Complex 37, the Cold War site for Nike Hercules rockets

White Sands Launch Complex 38, the Cold War site for Nike Zeus testing

Xichang Launch Complex 2

Launch Control Center

The Launch Control Center (LCC) is a four-story building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, used to manage launches of spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. The LCC handles all American space flights with human crews. Attached to the southeast corner of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the LCC contains offices; telemetry, tracking, and instrumentation equipment; the automated Launch Processing System; and four firing rooms.

LCC has conducted launches since the unmanned Apollo 4 (Apollo-Saturn 501) launch on November 9, 1967. LCC's first launch with a human crew was Apollo 8 on December 21, 1968. NASA's Space Shuttle program also used LCC. NASA has renovated the center for the upcoming Space Launch System (SLS) missions, which are scheduled to begin in 2020 with Exploration Mission-1.

Launch escape system

A launch escape system (LES) or launch abort system (LAS) is a crew safety system connected to a space capsule, used to quickly separate the capsule from its launch vehicle rocket in case of a launch abort emergency, such as an impending explosion. Such systems are usually of two types:

A solid-fueled rocket, mounted above the capsule on a tower, which delivers a relatively large thrust for a brief period of time to send the capsule a safe distance away from the launch vehicle, at which point the capsule's parachute recovery system can be used for a safe landing on ground or water. The tower and rocket are jettisoned from the space vehicle in a normal flight at the point where it is either no longer needed, or cannot be effectively used to abort the flight. These have been used on the Mercury, Apollo, and Soyuz capsules.

The crew are seated in ejection seats as used in military aircraft; each crewmember returns to Earth with an individual parachute. Such systems are effective in a limited range of altitudes and speeds. These have been used on the Vostok and Gemini capsules.The system is typically controlled by a combination of automatic rocket failure detection, and a manual backup for the crew commander's use.

There has only been one occurrence of a launch escape system being used during an active mission:

In 1983, the crew of the Soviet Soyuz T-10-1 were carried away from their launch vehicle via their LES two seconds before the launch vehicle exploded due to a pad fire. The crew survived.

In 2018 the crew of Soyuz MS-10 separated from their launch vehicle after a booster rocket separation failure occurred at an altitude of 50 km during the ascent. However, at this point in the mission the LES had already been ejected and was not used to separate the crew capsule from the rest of the launch vehicle. Backup motors were utilized to separate the crew capsule resulting in the crew landing safely and uninjured approximately 19 minutes after launch.

Launch pad

A launch pad is an above-ground facility from which a rocket-powered missile or space vehicle is vertically launched. A spaceport (or sometimes launch complex) is a facility which includes, and provides required support for, one or more launch pads; the term launch pad may sometimes be used to describe just the central launch platform. A launch pad typically includes a launch mount or launch platform—to support the vehicle and its service structure with umbilicals to provide propellants, cryogenic fluids, electrical power, communications and telemetry prior to launch—plus storage facilities for propellants and gases, equipment, access roads, drainage and all the requisite infrastructure to support rocket vehicle launches.

Some launch pads include service structures to provide one or more access platforms to inspect and maintain the vehicle and to allow access to the crew cabin for vehicles carrying humans. The pad may contain a flame deflection structure to prevent the intense heat of the rocket exhaust from damaging the vehicle or pad structures, and a sound suppression system spraying large quantities of water may be employed. The pad may also be protected by lightning arresters. A launch pad is distinct from a missile launch facility (or missile silo or missile complex), which also launches a missile vertically but is located underground in order to help harden it against enemy attack, or conceal it from surveillance.

Cryogenic propellants (liquid oxygen oxidizer, and liquid hydrogen or liquid methane fuel) need to be continuously topped off (i.e., boil-off replaced) during the launch sequence (countdown), as the vehicle awaits liftoff. This becomes particularly important as complex sequences may be interrupted by planned or unplanned holds to fix problems.

Most rockets need stable support for a few seconds after ignition while the engines build up to stable, full thrust. Therefore, the vehicle is commonly held on the pad by hold-down arms or explosive bolts, which are triggered when the vehicle is stable and ready to fly, at which point all umbilical connections with the pad are released.

List of Apollo mission types

In September 1967, Owen Maynard of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas proposed a series of Apollo missions that would lead up to a manned lunar landing. Seven mission types were outlined, each testing a specific set of components and tasks, and each previous step would need to be completed successfully before the next mission type could be undertaken. These were:

A – Unmanned Saturn V and command and service module (CSM) development (Apollo 4, Apollo 6)

B – Unmanned lunar module (LM) development (Apollo 5)

C – Manned CSM evaluation in low Earth orbit (Apollo 7)

D – Manned CSM and LM development in low Earth orbit (originally planned for Apollo 8; flown as Apollo 9)

E – Manned CSM and LM operations, a simulated lunar mission in an elliptical medium Earth orbit with an apogee of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km); never flown

F – Manned CSM and LM operations in lunar orbit, proving LOR

G – First manned lunar landingThe planned sequence was changed when it became clear the first manned lunar module, LM-3, would not be ready in time for the December 1968 launch of Apollo 8, so this was flown as a lunar orbital mission using just the CSM (sometimes referred to as "a C prime mission") and the E mission was canceled.

Revised sequence (Aug 1968):

C' – Manned CSM flight into lunar orbit (Apollo 8 flew as this revised "C-prime" mission)

D – Manned CSM and LM development in low Earth orbit (Apollo 9)

E – Cancelled (this would have been a step backward from Apollo 8 as flown)

F – Manned CSM and LM operations in lunar orbit, a "dress rehearsal" for the first landing (Apollo 10)

G – First manned lunar landing (Apollo 11)

H – precision landings with up to two-day stays on the Moon, with two lunar extravehicular activities or "moonwalks" (Apollo 12, Apollo 13 (planned), Apollo 14)

I – long duration CSM lunar orbital surveys using a scientific instrument module mounted in an empty service module bay. These were incorporated into the J missions.

J – longer three-day stays using an extended LM, with three LEVAs and a Lunar Roving Vehicle (Apollo 15, Apollo 16, Apollo 17). Apollo 18 to 20 would have been J missions. Apollo 15 was originally planned as an H mission but was promoted to J as the program was curtailed.

Mobile Launcher Platform 1

Mobile Launcher Platform 1 or MLP-1, formerly Mobile Launcher 3 or ML-3 is one of three Mobile Launcher Platforms used at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches were conducted from MLP-1 between 1969 and 2009. It was modified for use in the Constellation program but ended up being used only once for the Ares I-X launch before the cancellation of the program.

Mobile Launcher Platform 2

Mobile Launcher Platform 2 or MLP-2, formerly Mobile Launcher 2 or ML-2 is one of three Mobile Launcher Platforms used at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was used for Saturn V launches, and was subsequently used by the Space Shuttle.

Mobile Launcher Platform 3

Mobile Launcher Platform 3 or MLP-3, formerly Mobile Launcher 1 or ML-1 is one of three Mobile Launcher Platforms used at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was used for Saturn V and Saturn IB launches, and later for the Space Shuttle. It will be used to launch Northrop Grumman Innovation System's Omega rocket from LC-39B starting in 2021.

Rubber room (bunker)

Rubber room is the nickname given to the emergency egress bunkers located 40 feet (12 m) beneath the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39; there is one below each of the two pads. Built in the 1960s for the Apollo program, and intended to provide a safe refuge for personnel on the launch pad in the event of an imminent explosion of the rocket, when a rapid egress of the pad is required and the normal evacuation methods would take too long. The bunker was designed to withstand the explosion of a fully fueled Saturn V rocket on the pad above, and could support up to 20 people for 24 hours.

Access to the bunker was via a 200-foot (61 m) slide chute which began at an opening on the surface of the launch pad. Personnel would slide down this chute which would bring them to a small rubber-padded antechamber outside of the blast room. While this padded antechamber was the only part officially designated "rubber room", the nickname came to be used for the blast room itself. A large steel door, similar to a bank's vault door, led into the bunker proper and would be closed and sealed when all personnel were safely inside.

The bunker itself was circular in shape with a domed ceiling. Contoured seats, large enough for a fully suited astronaut, ringed the perimeter of the room. Also inside the room were fire blankets, and supplies to sustain the occupants for 24 hours. Charts on the wall gave guidance to the occupants as to when to light oxygen candles to replenish breathable oxygen, and when to change the CO2 scrubbers to remove excess carbon dioxide from the air. A radio link was available for communication with rescuers and responders. A toilet was installed behind one of the seats.The concrete floor was floating, supported by springs and shock absorbers. Once seated and strapped into the contoured seats, this design would protect the occupants from the forces generated by the explosion of the rocket on the hardstand above, estimated by NASA engineers to be a fireball 430 meters (1,410 ft) wide, which would burn for 40 seconds, reaching temperatures of 2,500 °F (1,370 °C). The bunker could withstand a blast pressure of 500 pounds per square inch (3,400 kPa) and 75G of acceleration.The exit from the bunker was through a 366-meter (1,201 ft) long tunnel, in reality a large air duct, that opened to the outside at the perimeter of the pad. In the event that this route was blocked, there was an emergency escape hatch in the roof of the dome.The rubber room was primarily intended for use by pad workers during fueling and terminal count operations, though a mechanism was in place for the crew of the rocket to use it as well. A high-speed elevator would bring the astronauts from the 320-foot (98 m) level of the launch tower to the surface level of the pad in under 30 seconds. From there, they would use the slide chute as normal to bring them to the bunker. This was the third available escape route for the astronauts, the first being the launch escape system on the rocket itself, and the second being a slide-wire that the crew would use from the top of the rocket to slide to a point well away from the pad.

After the Apollo era ended, the rubber rooms fell into disrepair. Water pooled in the bunkers and the exit tunnels, and several species of Florida wildlife took up residence. When the launch pads were refurbished for the Space Shuttle, the bunkers were classified as "abandoned in place" rather than refurbished with the pad above. As of 2012, the pad B room was closed due to lead paint risks, but the pad A room remains accessible. When NASA leased pad A to SpaceX in 2014, the terms of the lease included a requirement that the rubber room, among other historic portions of the pad, be preserved as historical artifacts.

STS-51-L

STS-51-L was the 25th mission of the United States Space Shuttle program, the program to carry out routine transportation for Earth-to-orbit crew and cargo; as well as the final flight of Space Shuttle Challenger.

Planned as the first Teacher in Space Project in addition to observing Halley's Comet for six days, the mission never flew past orbit; a structural failure during its ascent phase 73 seconds after launch from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 on January 28, 1986, killed all seven crew members—Commander Dick Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik and Ronald E. McNair, and Payload Specialists Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe—and destroyed the orbiter.

Immediately after the disaster, NASA convened the Rogers Commission to determine the cause of the explosion. The failure of an O-ring seal on the starboard Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) was determined to have caused the shuttle to break-up in flight. Space Shuttle flights were suspended for 32 months while the hazards with the shuttle were addressed. The Space Shuttle program resumed with STS-26, launched two years after the accident.

Service structure

A service structure is a structure built on a rocket launch pad to facilitate assembly and servicing.

An umbilical tower also usually includes an elevator which allows maintenance and crew access. Immediately before ignition of the rocket's motors, all connections between the tower and the craft are severed, and the bridges over which these connections pass often quickly swing away to prevent damage to the structure or vehicle.

SpaceX CRS-10

SpaceX CRS-10, also known as SpX-10, was a Dragon Commercial Resupply Service mission to the International Space Station (ISS) which launched on 19 February 2017. The mission was contracted by NASA as part of its Commercial Resupply Services program and was launched by SpaceX aboard the 30th flight of the Falcon 9 rocket. The mission ended on 19 March 2017 when the Dragon spacecraft left the ISS and safely returned to Earth.

SpaceX CRS-8

SpaceX CRS-8, also known as SpX-8, was a Commercial Resupply Service mission to the International Space Station (ISS) which was launched on April 8, 2016, at 20:43 UTC. It was the 23rd flight of a Falcon 9 rocket, the tenth flight of a Dragon cargo spacecraft and the eighth operational mission contracted to SpaceX by NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services program. The capsule carried over 3,100 kilograms (6,800 lb) of cargo to the ISS including the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), a prototype inflatable space habitat delivered in the vehicle's trunk, which will be attached to the station for two years of in-orbit viability tests.After boosting the payload on its orbital trajectory, the rocket's first stage re-entered the denser layers of the atmosphere and landed vertically on the ocean landing platform Of Course I Still Love You nine minutes after liftoff, achieving a long-sought-after milestone in SpaceX reusable launch system development program.The recovered Falcon 9 first stage (SN:B1021) from this mission became the first one to be flown again, launching the SES-10 satellite on March 30, 2017.

Space Shuttle retirement

The retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet took place from March to July 2011. Discovery was the first of the three active space shuttles to be retired, completing its final mission on March 9, 2011; Endeavour did so on June 1. The final shuttle mission was completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011, closing the 30-year Space Shuttle program.

The Shuttle was presented to the public in 1972 as a "space truck" which would, among other things, be used to build a United States space station in low earth orbit in the early 1990s and then be replaced by a new vehicle. When the concept of the U.S. space station evolved into that of the International Space Station, which suffered from long delays and design changes before it could be completed, the service life of the Space Shuttle was extended several times until 2011 when it was finally retired.In 2010 the Shuttle was formally scheduled for retirement with Atlantis being taken out of service first after STS-132 in May of that year, but the program was once again extended when the two final planned missions were delayed until 2011. Later, one additional mission was added for Atlantis for July 2011, extending the program further. Counter-proposals to the shuttle's retirement were considered by Congress and the prime contractor United Space Alliance as late as spring 2010.Hardware developed for the Space Shuttle met various ends with conclusion of the program, including donation, disuse and/or disposal, or reuse. An example of reuse, is that one of the three Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) was converted to a permanent module for the International Space Station.

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