lc39a-logo.gif (13116 Byte)

Launch Complex 39-A & 39-B

    Launch Complex 39's Pad A and Pad B were originally designed to support the Apollo program and were modified for Space Shuttle launch operations. Major changes included the erection of a new Fixed Service Structure (FSS), addition of a Rotating Service Structure (RSS), and the replacement of the Saturn flame deflectors with three new flame deflectors. The upper portion of the Saturn V Launch umbilical tower was removed from two of the Apollo Mobile Launchers and installed at the pad to serve as the FSS.

    Fuel, oxidizer, high pressure gas, electrical, and pneumatic lines connect the Shuttle vehicle with ground support equipment and are routed through the FSS, RSS and Mobile Launch Platform.

    Space Shuttle access and servicing at the pad are provided by:

    The FSS is topped by a 24.4 meter (80ft) tall fiberglass lightning mast grounded by 335 meter (1,100ft) cables that are anchored north and south of the pad. The Mast provides lightning protection for pad structures and the Space Shuttle.

    The RSS accommodates the loading of payloads vertically at the pad. It is mounted on a semi-circular track which allows it to rotate through an arc of 120 degrees on a radius of 36.6 meters (120 ft). The RSS pivots from a hinge on the FSS until the RSS spacecraft changeout room fits flush with the Orbiters's cargo bay. This room allows payloads to be installed or serviced under contamination-free or "clean room" conditions. Click here for a better view of the RSS

    Blast-protected hypergolic storage and supply systems are provided at each pad, and the Launch Processing System (LPS) is used to monitor all aspects of vehicle and payload operations. The LPS system interconnects to the MLP through Hardware Interface Modules (HIM's) located in Pad Terminal Connection Rooms beneath the pads.

    Pads 39-A and 39-B are virtually identical and roughly octagonal in shape. The distance between pads is 2,657 meters (8,715 ft). The pad base contains 52,000 cubic meters (68,000 cubic yards) of concrete. The ramp leading up to the pad is inclined at a 5% grade. The flame trench is 13 meters (42 ft) deep, 137 meters (450ft) long and 18 meters (58 ft) wide. The orbiter flame deflector is 11.6 meters (38ft) high, 22 meters (72 ft) long and 17.5 meters (57.6 ft) wide. It weights 590,000 kg (1.3 million lbs). The SRB deflector is 12.95 meters (42.5 ft) high, 12.8 meters (42 ft) long and 17.4 meters (57 ft) wide. It weights 499,000 kg (1.1 million lbs). The Sound Suppression Water System is used to protect the launch structure from the intense sound pressure of liftoff. Its water tank is 88.9 meters (290ft) high and has a capacity of 1,135,000 liters (300,000 gallons).

    There are 6 permanent and 4 extensible pedestals that are used to support the MLP at the pad. Dynamic loads at rebound are 3,175,200 kg (7,000,000 lbs) to 4,762,800 kg (10,500,000lb) at liftoff. The pad is lit with 5 clusters of Xenon high-intensity searchlights (total searchlights: 40) around the pad perimeter.

    The height of the Fixed Service Structure (FSS) is 105.7 meters (347ft) to the top of the lightning mast (referenced to the pad base) and the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) is 57.6 meters (189ft) high. The Fixed Service Structure (FSS) and Rotating Service Structure (RSS) on Pad 39A underwent a renovation between June and September 1993. Some 13,773 gallons of paint were used on two coats and 1,866 tons of sand were used in the sandblasting operation.

    The LC-39 Launch complex also contains large liquid oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) storage tanks. These are large ball-shaped vacuum jacketed dewar bottles used to store supercold cryogenic propellants for the shuttle external tank. The LOX tank, located at the northwest corner of the pad stores 3,406,500 liters (900,000 gallons) of liquid oxygen at a temperature of minus 183 degress C (-298 F). The LH2 tank is located at the northeast corner of the pad and stores 3,218,250 liters (850,000 gallons) of liquid hydrogen at a temperature of minus 253 degrees C (-423 degrees F).

    The Weather Protection System protects orbiter tiles from wind blown debris, rain and hail. Wheeled metal doors that ride on steel beams are attached to the Rotating Service Structure and the Fixed Service Structure. Doors slide together (to within 3 inches of each other) between the orbiter's belly and the external tank, providing protection for the lower portion of the orbiter.

    • East Door, attached to the RSS measures 16 meters (53 ft) long, 8 meters (27 ft) tall and weighs 19 metric tons (42,000 lbs).
    • West Door, attached to the FSS measures 13 meters (43 ft) long, 11.6 meters (38ft) tall and weighs 21 metric tons (46,000 lbs)

    The top of the orbiter is shielded by an inflatable seal extending from the Payload Changeout Room forming a semi-circle covering 90 degrees of arc between the orbiter and its external tank. The sides of the orbiter, between the vehicle and the external tank, are protected by a series of 20 metal bi-fold doors that fold out from the Payload Changeout Room. The doors measure 24.4 meters by 1.2 meters (80ft x 4ft).

    There is approximately 1.25 million feet of tubing and piping at Launch Complex 39, varying in sizes from .25 inches to 114 inches in diameter. This is enough pipe to reach from Orlando to Miami.



vab-small.gif (35709 Byte)Vehicle Assembly Building

The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is one of the largest buildings in the world. It was originally built for assembly of Apollo/Saturn vehicles and was later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. High Bays 1 and 3 are used for integration and stacking of the complete Space Shuttle vehicle. High Bay 2 is used for external tank (ET) checkout and storage and as a contingency storage area for orbiters. High Bay 4 is also used for ET checkout and storage, as well as for payload canister operations and solid rocket boster (SRB) contingency handling.

The Low Bay area contains Space Shuttle main engine maintenance and overhaul shops, and servs as a holding area for SRB forward assemblies and aft skirts.

During Space shuttle build-up operations inside the VAB, integrated SRB segments are transfered from nearbay SRB assembly and checkout facilities, hoisted onto a Mobile Launcher Platform in High Bays 1 or 3 and mated together to form two complete SRBs. The ET, after arrival by barge, is inspected and checked out in High Bays 2 or 4 and then transfered to High Bay's 1 or 3 to be attached to the SRBs already in place. The orbiter is then towed over from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the VAB transfer aisle, raised to a vertical position, lowered onto the Mobile Launcher Platform and then mated to the rest of the stack. When assembly and checkout is complete, the crawler-transporter enters the High Bay, picks up the platform and assembled shuttle vehicle and carries them to the launch pad.

The VAB covers 3.25 hectares (8 acres). It is 160 meters (525 ft) tall, 218 meters (716 ft) long and 158 meters (518 ft) wide. It encloses 3,664,883 cubic meters (129,428,000 cubic feet) of space.

  • Flag & Bicentennial Emblem: Added in 1976, required 6,000 gallons of paint. The flag is 64 x 33.5 meters (209 x 110 ft) in size. Each strip on the flag is as big as the tour buses used to transport visitors around KSC
  • Steel: 89,421 metric tons (98,590 tons)
  • Concrete: 49,696 cubic meters (65,000 cubic yards)
  • Piling: 4,225 open-end steel pipe piles, 0.4 meters (16 inchs) in diameter were driven 49 meters (160 ft) into bedrock.
  • Air Conditioning: 9,070 metric tons (10,000 tons), 125 ventilators.
  • Lifting Devices: 71 cranes; two 227 metric ton (250 ton) bridge cranes.
  • Siding: 100,800 sq meters (1,085,000 sq ft) insulated aluminum panels; 6,503 sq meters (70,000 sq ft) plastic panels.
  • Doors: There are 4 High Bay doors. Each opening is 139 meters (456 ft) high. The north entry to the transfer aisle was widened 12.2 meters (40ft) to permit entry of the Orbiter, and slotted at the center to accommodate its verticle stabilizer.


  • Height: VAB - 160meters (525 ft) <--> Statue of Liberty - 93 meters (305 ft)
  • Volume: VAB - 3,665,013 cu meters (129,428,000 cub ft) <--> Pentagon 2,181,117 cu meters (77,025,000 cu ft).
  • VAB equals 3.75 Empire State Buildings



slf-logo.gif (10966 Byte)Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF)

Orbiter landings at the Kennedy Space Center are made on one of the largest runways in the world. The runway is located 3.2 km (2 miles) northwest of the Vehicle Assembly Building and is 4,572 meters (15,000ft) long and 91.4 meters (300ft) wide - about as wide as the length of a football field. It has 305 meters (1000ft) of paved overruns at each end and the paving thickness is 40.6cm (15ninches) at the center.

The facility includes a 150 x 168 meter (490x550ft) parking apron and a 3.2 km (2 mile) tow-way connecting it with the Orbiter Processing Facility . Located adjacent to the parking apron is a Landing Aids Control Building (LACB) which supports landing operations and houses operations personnel.

Located at the northeast corner of the parking apron is the Mate/Demate device (MDD) used to raise and lower the orbiter from its 747 carrier aircraft during ferry operations. The open-truss steel structure is equipped with hoists, adapters and movable platforms for access to certain orbiter components and equipment. It also is equipped with lightning protection devices. The MDD is 45.7 meters (150ft) long, 28.3 meters (93ft) wide and 32 meters (105ft) high.

The Shuttle Landing Facility is equipped with a number of navigation and landing aids to assist Shuttle pilots in landing. There are four sophisticated Microwave Scanning Beam Landing System (MSBLS) ground stations - two located at each end of the runway - that provide elevation and directional/distance measurement for landing approaches from the northwest (runway 15) or southeast (runway 33). Equipment onboard the orbiter receives the data from the MSBLS stations and automatically makes any needed adjustments to the glide slope.

A Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) system, located at mid-field off the east side of the runway, is used by pilots to execute an instrument landing approach to the runway. The TACAN has a range of 483 kilometers (300 miles), and is received by the orbiter when it emerges from the reentry blackout period. The final approach is guided by the MSBLS system.

Visual aids are provided by Precision Approach Path Indicators, known as the PAPI system. They utilize arrays of red and white lights that, when lined up properly by the pilot, will indicate the proper glide slope. A ball/bar light system is used for inner glide slope information on final approach - to inform the pilot whether he is on, above or below the glide slope for an orbiter touchdown point marked on the runway.

A Recovery Convoy Staging Area, located just east of the runway about midway along its length, houses trailers, mobile units and specially designed vehicles that are used to "safe" the orbiter immediately after landing for crew egress and transfer of the orbiter to the Orbiter Processing Facility.

A specially constructed earthen mound just east of the Convoy Staging Area contains bleachers, press facilities and a Public Affairs control room to suppport invited guests and press coverage during orbiter landings at the Kennedy Space Center.



crawler-logo.gif (14108 Byte)Crawler - Transporter

The two tracked Crawler-Transporters previously used to move the assembled Apollo/Saturn from the VAB to the launch pad are now used for transporting Shuttle vehicles.




Transporter Statistics

  •     Weight: 2,721 metric tons (6 million pounds)
  •     Length: 40 meters (131 ft) wide, 35 meters    (114ft) long
  •     Miles: 2,526 miles (1,243 miles since 1977)

KSC has 2 crawler-transporters. Each vehicle consists of four double-tracked crawlers, each 3 meters (10 ft) high and 12 meters (41 ft) long. Each of the 8 tracks on a vehicle contains 57 shoes per track and each tread shoe weighs about .9 metric tons (one ton). Click here to see the crawler moving a shuttle .

The Crawler/Transporter is powered by 16 traction motors powered by four 1,000 kw generators, driven by two 2,750hp diesel engines. Two 750 kw generators, drived by two 1,065 hp diesel engines are used for jacking, steering, lighting, and ventilating. Two 150 kw generators are also used for MLP power.

The KSC crawlers are the largest tracked vehicles known. They move the Mobile Launcher Platform into the Vehicle Assembly Building and then to the Launch Pad with an assembled space vehicle. Maximum speed is 1.6km (one mile) per hour loaded, about 3.2 km (2 miles) per hour unloaded. Launch Pad to VAB trip time with the Mobile Launch Platform is about 5 hours. The crawler burns 568 liters (150 gallons) of diesel oil per mile.

The top of the orbiter is kept vertical within plus or minus 10 minutes of arc, about the diameter of a basketball during the journey. Leveling systems within the crawler keeps the platform level while negotiating the 5% ramp leading up to the pad surface.

The height of the crawler is 6 meters (20ft) to 8 meters (26 feet) adjustable. The top deck is flat and square, about the size of a baseball infield, 27 meters (90 feet) on a side. Two operator control cabs, one at each end of the chassis, are used to control all crawler systems.

KSC's two crawler-transporters have accumulated 1,243 miles since 1977. Including the Apollo years, the transporters have racked up 2,526 miles, about the same distance as a one-way trip from KSC to Los Angeles by interstate highway or a round trip between KSC and New York City.



mlp-logo.gif (28426 Byte)Mobile Launch Platforms (MLP)

The three Mobile Launchers used in Apollo/Saturn operations were modified for use in Shuttle operations. With cranes, umbilical towers, and swing arms removed, the Mobile Launchers were redesignated Mobile Launcher Platforms (MLP). In place of one large opening in the platform, three smaller openings accommodate flames and hot exhaust gases from the solid rocket boosters and the orbiter engines. Segments of the dismantled umbilical towers are part of the perment installation at the launch pad, where they serve as sections of the Fixed Service Structure (FSS). A third apollo umbilical tower, removed from MLP-3, has been cut into 20 ft sections and placed in a field in the KSC industrial area. It may someday become reconstructed as part of the KSC tour route.

Tail Service Masts (TSM's), one on each side of the main engines exhausts hole provide umbilical connections for fuel and oxidizer, gases, ground electrical power and communications links. These Masts are 4.6m (15ft) long, 2.7m (9ft) wide and 9.4m (31 ft) high.


MLP Statistics

    Launch Platform: Two-Story steel structure, 7.6 meters (25ft) high, 49 Meters (160ft) long and 41 meters (135ft)wide.

    • Empty Weight: 4.19 million kg (9.25 million lb)
    • With unfueled Shuttle: 5.45 million kg (12.02 million lb)
    • With fueled Shuttle: 6.22 million kg (13.72 million lb)

Positioned on 6 steel pedestals 7m (22ft) high when in the VAB or at the launch pad. At the pad, 4 extensible columns were used during the Apollo program were used to stiffen the MLP against rebound loads, should engine cutoff occur. They are no longer used for the Shuttle program.