In 2010 and 2011 I did three trips to the Kennedy Space Center. Three trips – why? Well, the first one because I wanted to visit this place since watching the first Shuttle launches in TV in the early 80s. I was not able to all I wanted at the center (it is huge!) and I realized that you actually can watch launches live from there. Thus, the second trip was planned for watching the final launch of the Shuttle Endeavour. The launch had to be delayed a few hours before the planned lift-off time. The delay stretched out to 16 days – I missed the launch. One Shuttle launch was left – STS-135, the final launch of Atlantis. And I managed to see this – as part of the official ESA/DLR delegation. What a happy me in the end!
But I still have not seen all there – thus I plan to go back later this year. The launch of the EFT-1 flight with a huge Delta 4 Heavy or a launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 (with a test to return the first stage propulsively back to the launch site!?) could be very interesting to watch. If you want to join please let me know. I would be a good guide I think. 😉
But first some impressions from my three visits so far. Here we go with part I (part II is available here: https://hvossgaia.wordpress.com/kennedy-space-center-ii/):
1.) Launch pads:
Shuttle launch pad 39B in June 2010 before rebuilding it to a clean pad.
Delta 4 launch pad as seen from the causeway
STS-134 Endeavour as seen from the causeway. This photo was taken when the first launch try was aborted. The launch had to be delayed by 16 days and I missed that one.
Delta 4 launch pad as seen from the gauntry.
Launch pad for the Falcon 9 of SpaceX.
Launch pad of the Atlas V rocket. The Vertical Integration Facility can also be seen.
Shuttle launch pad 39A as seen from the Saturn V center.
Atlantis one day before the final launch on pad 39A.
These guys in the blue suits are the astronauts. You can meet some of them at KSC. This is Stephen Robinson.
Another shot of Atlantis one day before launch.
Launch pad 39A after the final launch of Atlantis as seen from the Saturn V center.
Launch pad 39B (left) and 39A after the launch of Atlantis.
Launch pad 39B is prepared for the launch of the new SLS launcher. This is a clean pad as the launch tower will be permanently located on the transport platform of the rocket.
One of the crawlers. They transport the launch platforms with the Shuttle on top from the VAB to the launch pad. In the background you can see the VAB, the launch control center and the launch tower for the new SLS launcher.
Launch pad 39A with Atlantis a few minutes before its final lift off.
Another view of Atlantis one day before her final launch.
Closer now … 😉
Endeavour on pad 39A enclosed in the RSS before her final launch.
Visiting an OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility):
There are three OPFs at the KSC – here you can see two of them.
We are visiting OPF 1.
One of the attachment points for the external tank including fuel lines.
Main landing gear without tires.
These rings were enclosing the main engines of the orbiter.
The orbiter is somewhere here! Processing was a very complex task obviously!
These orbiters are huge!
The tiles of the Thermal Protection System (TPS) – aka heatshield – are several cm thick.
… and Endeavour is really inside this … believe me!
… a proud visitor in front of Endeavour in the OPF. You can spot the nose cap and the nose landing gear!
The nose landing gear bay with the forward attachment point of the ET.
… she is so huge … I am feeling to be small …
Some tile damage. This one was inspected in orbit. I remember that I was following the inspection live in the net.
A landing gear door. Don´t touch this 😉
The aft edges of the wings and the body flap.
Small tile damages here and there …
How the thermal tiles are made:
There are a plenty of different forms and sizes of tiles mounted on the surface of the orbiter.
Processing a very special tile.
Tiles in storage.
For the lower side of the TPS the tiles have a special black coating.
This is an oven used for baking tiles.
Still glowing but you can touch it already!
The tiles are very light and can swim. With a special coating they don´t soak water.
Some parts of the orbiter are covered by these thermal blankets. The weight less than the tiles.
Here we have the raw material the tiles are made off.
A tile is pressed.
All the different types of thermal insulation used on the Shuttle.
A very special thermal blanket.
An old German Singer sewing machine is used for the production of thermal blankets.
Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) processing:
With this machine you lift the SSMEs.
… some SSMEs are waiting for new tasks …
This engine was recently selected as one of the four engines that will power the new NASA SLS rocket into space on its maiden launch in December 2017. Ouch, seems to be there is an emotional connection for me with this launch in 2017.
How the SSME is working …
Close inspection of a SSME nozzle
Close-up of the entire turbo-machinery
To be continued …