Tuesday’s marvels of engineering: Launch Pad 39B
Source: NASA

Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) has prepared Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to support the launch of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.

Pad subsystems used for Apollo and the Space Shuttle Program were replaced or upgraded to support the SLS and 21st century multi-user spaceport.

The guiding principle behind the upgrades and modifications is to make the area a “clean pad,” which will allow a variety of companies to launch their rockets from the pad. The basics that every rocket needs will remain in place, such as electrical power, a water system, flame trench and safe launch area. The other needs of individual rockets, including access for workers, can be met with the towers or other structures that deliver the rocket to the pad.

Apollo 10 was the first mission to begin at Launch Pad 39B when it lifted off May 18, 1969, to rehearse the first moon landing. Three crews of astronauts launched to the Skylab space station in 1973 from Pad B. Three Apollo astronauts who flew the historic mission to link up in space also launched from Pad B.

Fun Facts:

  • During refurbishment projects, 1.3 million feet of copper cables were removed and replaced with 300,000 feet of fiber cable.

  • The water tower for the Ignition Overpressure and Sound Suppression System (IOP/SS) holds roughly 400,000 gallons of water, or enough to fill 27 average pools. This water is dumped on the mobile launcher and inside the flame trench in less than 30 seconds. The IOP/SS peak flow rate is 1.1 million gallons per minute, high enough to empty roughly two Olympic-size swimming pools in one minute.

  • The three lightning towers are about 600 feet tall – taller than the Vehicle Assembly Building, which is 525 feet tall.

  • The refurbished flame trench and new flame deflector will be exposed to a peak temperature of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit during launch.

  • More than 96,000 bricks were installed on the walls of the flame trench during the refurbishment project.

  • The flame trench is 450 feet long, equal to the length of one and a half football fields.