Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dismantling Of Historic Shuttle Pad Continues

In yet another sign the shuttle program is winding toward an end, the Fixed Service Structure at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B started coming down this week, a move being made to clear the way for future launch vehicles.

A large crane is being used to dismantle the structure one section at a time. Work to remove the Rotating Service Structure at the pad is continuing, too.

The structures both were designed to meet the specific needs of the shuttle program. NASA now intends to go with a "clean pad" approach -- one in which rockets would arrive at the pad with service structures atop mobile launcher platforms. The idea is to make the pad available to a number of different vehicles.

NASA is being directed by Congress to develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle that would be capable of hauling up spaceships and cargo for missions beyond Earth orbit. It's likely the super-sized rocket would be tested and flown from pad 39B.

Built as a back-up during the Apollo program, complex 39B was the embarkation point for all three Skylab missions and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight. Its first use in the shuttle program was for the ill-fated 1986 launch of STS-51L, Challenger's tenth and final flight. A total of 52 shuttle missions have been launched from the pad. The last was STS-116 in December 2006. The Ares I-X test flight also flew from pad 39B.

Click HERE for more information on Complexes 39A and 39B.

Click HERE for more information on the Fixed Service Structure.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of the Fixed Service Structure being dismantled at launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center. You also can click the enlarged image to get an even bigger, more detailed view. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin.

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