Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Kennedy Space Center

Today I have some fun scans, shared by Warren Nielsen (we've seen photos from him on several occasions). These are from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, circa 1976. By then, the Apollo moon launches were over (the last one in December of 1972), although other programs such as Skylab and Apollo/Soyuz kept the dream alive for us space-crazy kids. 

Warren says: These are from the same Sept. 1976 trip, and we are doing a 'mostly bus ride tour' of Kennedy Space Center. As I recall, the bus would stop for photo opportunities, but the people in charge wouldn't let you stray more than 30 feet from the bus for the most part. 

The display rockets are neat, but I can't help looking at those launch towers in the distance!

Warren continues: We couldn't get too close to much of anything, except for right outside the 'visitor center' and at one of the early blockhouses. I am going to guess that some of your other readers will know or research more information on the various pieces of hardware seen here. I have other shots, but these I think are the best representation of what we saw then.

The signs tell us that the original Mercury 7 astronauts (Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, and Gordon Cooper) launched from this pad. Cool!

Say, you can read that sign all by yourselves! Especially if you are hooked on phonics, like me.

Check out those scary missiles, including the "Polaris", designed to carry nuclear warheads. Wheee!

Rocket engines are just cool. Looking up the G-38 engines, they were used on Navaho ICBMs. "The intercontinental-range Navaho G-38 was the ultimate development of the German A-9/A-10 concept. At the time the Navaho program was cancelled on 13 July 1957 missiles were in fabrication with first flight test planned by the end of 1958".

I don't know anything about this rocket, but it looks like a giant toy.

 For this next photo, Warren says: I am somewhat amused by the juxtaposition of the lighthouse and the nearby rocketry. Very similar shape, similar size in some cases, but very different purposes and centuries of difference in technology.

And finally, here are some very impressive and huge rocket engines; I'm not sure if they are the Rocketdyne F-1 engines used on the Saturn V rockets, perhaps one of you will know. Chuck? (No pressure!).

Many thanks to Warren Nielsen for sharing these fun photos!


Nanook said...


Talk about bringing back old memories of the Kennedy Space Center-! Some great images, to be sure. And somehow you managed to miss the VAB, in all its hunky glory.

Thanks for sharing these.

Chuck said...

Blast it, Major - you had to post this on a work day, and I'm already behind schedule getting ready for work! I can provide some additional detail, but it will have to wait until later in the day as I can get to it on my breaks. I'm sure the rest of the gang can fill in the gaps along the way. Looking forward to it, though.

Stu29573 said...

The "unknown rocket" is an Atlas missile. It was produced from 1959 to 1965.

K. Martinez said...

Warren, these are some majorly awesome photos of the Kennedy Space Center you've got here. This was the real Tomorrowland!

I remember in the 1960's how prominent the space programs were and the high public interest there was in space travel. It doesn't seem that way today. Thanks for sharing more of your photos with us, Warren.

Steve DeGaetano said...

In that last pic, that is an F-1 in the background; not sure what the smaller engine in the foreground is.

Melissa said...

What a treat, Warren! I don't remember individual rockets or engines, and my pictures of our 1983 visit have been missing for a while, but this really stirs up the old memories! My sister probably could have named all the rockets; she was the real space nerd in the family. She was all signed up for space camp, but we couldn't afford it after the divorce. I'm not even sure which shuttle we saw launching that week.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Warren and Major! Terrific stuff.

I remember on some of our trips across the desert we would pass the engine test towers at Edwards AFB, these are located on "Rocket Ridge", south of Boron on Hwy 58.

This facility is visible on Google Earth satellite view, but it is not named on the map. Go to Boron and zoom in on the mountain ridge just south of the town.

Once there was a test going on with cascades of flames coming out of the tower base. No way of knowing what was being tested then, but it made an amazing impression on a little kid.

Disney California Adventure had a very small area themed to this desert aerospace region, with a fake rocket engine on a stand. It was set up to spray cool water fog instead of rocket exhaust. I believe all this has been removed in the "re-theming" of that area, which is kind of sad.

Mojave area is a hotbed of private rocketry research. I was fortunate to visit some of the companies there a few years back and see some of the aircraft in flight. Scaled Composites, (Burt Rutan's company, now Northrop Grumman) designer of Spaceship 1 and Spaceship 2, and a group called X-Cor,, now out-of-business, I think. There are several others, but these are the ones I visited.

The X-cor space plane was doing take-off and landing drills, amazing to watch a small plane with nearly vertical take-off fly straight up out of sight. The pilot would shut off the engine at the top of the run and glide back down, then re-ignite with a huge BANG and repeat.

There are some videos of these tests on the websites above. The dream is alive and will eventually happen.

Best to all!


Warren Nielsen said...

Nanook, I do have pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building, thru the bus windows, spreading across 3 separate slides. Not much perspective in that. There was a Saturn V on its side in front of the building at the time. And there still wasn't a way to get the perspective of the size and scope of those structures. Maybe I should re-think submitting them to the Major after all.

Melissa, how cool it must have been to be there to see a launch. On our last trip to WDW as a whole family in 1998, we saw the contrail/vapor trail/exhaust trail of a launch as we were entering the park. Some weather satellite if I remember right. Pretty impressive to us.


Patrick Devlin said...

I've only seen a couple of launches and those from a pretty good distance, but as you say, Warren, they were pretty impressive to me. One of these days I'll be much closer, but not too close.

The smaller engine in front of the F-1 is the Rocketdyne J-2 that was an upper stage engine on both the Saturn IB and the third stage of the Saturn V (the S-IVB) that powered the crews out of Earth orbit and on their ways to the moon.

Thanks for the shots and the work, Warren, now I've got something to add on to my WDW excursion to Florida.

The Magic Ears Dudebro said...

I remember visiting the Kennedy Space Center more than a decade ago when I was in high school. It was really cool seeing all the space stuff, and the visit was probably more impressive since this was the age of the Space Shuttle.

I'm really glad that interest in space is gaining traction once again thanks to Elon Musk and Space X. Really hope I'll get the chance to see man walk on Mars before I eventually croak. Hopefully, that's a long enough time for 30-something me. Not sure about everyone else here.

outsidetheberm said...

Major, I know I've talked with you before about my dad's involvement in designing the guidance systems of those Saturn V rockets and the moon missions. One of these days I'll find all that cool Rockwell stuff we discussed!

Anonymous said...

My Dad was involved in the development of the S-IVB in Huntington Beach. Before then it was at Edwards in the 50s during the X-15. We all (especially in SoCal)had an attachment to the space program. It was an exciting time to grow up. My biggest thrill came a couple decades later when I had the opportunity to go inside the original Mission Control building on a tour of the Cape. To think that all those transmissions to and from the Mercury capsule that I heard on my transistor radio in the early 60s came from there. KS

Steve DeGaetano said...

You're right about the J-2, Patrick Devlin. The engine's power head looked different to me.

The J-2 was used on both the second and third stages of the Saturn V. My dad was an aerospace engineer at Rocketdyne in Canoga Park when those engines were developed, and was involved with the testing of the J-2.

Patrick Devlin said...

And in this small world, my Dad was working for North American Aviation when they spun off Rocketdyne as a separate division in Canoga Park, Steve. There's so many people who were involved in, if not aerospace, companies with government or defense ties. Looking back a long ways.

Melissa said...

It's a world of rockets and aerospace;
It's a world of tests at the missile base.
And with all this defense,
We’re beginning to sense
It's a small world after all!
There is just one moon in the sky so dark;
There is just one sun o’er Canoga Park.
Just like Patrick and Steve,
You had better believe
It's a small world after all!

Chuck said...

With the exception of the last photo, all of these pictures were actually taken at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), which is run by the US Air Force, rather than Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which is administered by NASA. KSC (not to be confused with KFC, which is a completely different thing) is located on Merritt Island, just north of the Banana River from Cape Canaveral. All US manned space flights from Apollo 10 on have been launched from Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) at KSC.

The first photo is of LC-6, used for tests of Redstone and Jupiter missiles. In the background to the left is the gantry of LC-26 and the “rocket garden” of what was then known as the United States Air Force Space and Missile History Center (today’s Air Force Space and Missile Museum) with the gantries of then-active LC-17A & LC-17B in the background to the right. It was taken facing north northeast from the northern edge of LC-5 at approximately 28.439698, -80.573244.

Standing on the pad at LC-6 is a Juno rocket topped with a mockup of the shroud that carried Explorer I, the first American satellite to successfully reach orbit, which was actually launched from LC-26. This rocket is now on display in the rocket garden at the KSC Visitor Complex. To its right is a Jupiter-A rocket, derived from the Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).

To the left of the Juno (from right to left), there is a Polaris A-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a Redstone rocket surrounded by the LC-26 gantry, a Thor Able launch vehicle behind and slightly obscured by the gantry, a red-and-white XSM-64 Navaho vertically-launched intercontinental cruise missile with a black-and-white Polaris A-1 SLBM immediately in front of it, a dark red-and-white SM-62 Snark intercontinental guided cruise missile, and what I think may be an MGM-1 Matador guided cruise missile. With the exception of the Polarises (Polari?), all date from the 1950s. Also visible in this photograph are a multitude of well-preserved telephone poles.

The second photo was taken the opposite direction from the first, looking back at LC-6 and LC-5. You can see their shared blockhouse to the right. LC-5, behind the Juno we saw in the previous photo, there is a Mercury capsule mock-up atop a Redstone rocket. LC-5 was the launch site of the first two American manned space missions, Mercury-Redstone 3 and Mercury-Redstone 4, in 1961. It has not been used for a launch since then.

In the distance to the left you can see LC-25 and 29, which were used to test Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident missiles. They were dismantled in 1979-80.

Chuck said...

The third photo is a close-up of LC-26, featuring another Redstone rocket inside the launch gantry. The black, red, and white rocket displayed vertically in the background to the left is a Pershing 1 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM). This particular example was later damaged in a hurricane; only the warhead and guidance & control section survived and are currently on display indoors at CCAFS.

The fourth photo includes not only the Polaris A-1 mentioned by the good Major, but also a better picture of the SM--62 Snark immediately behind it. Behind the Snark is an LGM-30 Minuteman I ICBM, with what appears to be Warren’s tour bus behind it. In the background to the left of the Polaris might possibly be an orange AIR-2 Genie air-to-air nuclear missile.

To the right of the foreground palm trees are an AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile (the small white missile) with an AGM-77/AGM-28 Hound Dog air-launched cruise missile behind it. The Hound Dog, based on the cancelled Navaho land-based cruise missile, was carried operationally on B-52s and intended to be launched hundreds of miles from its target. The B-52 piloted by Slim Pickens and Shane Rimmer in Dr Strangelove carries Hound Dogs under its wings.

Behind the G-38 in the fifth picture you can see LC-17A, with LC-17B to the left. You can see the lightning rod towers surrounding LC-17B; on my last visit (a private, AF-led VIP tour in 2002), the guide explained that when they selected Cape Canaveral as a rocket testing base, they weren’t aware that it was the “Lightning Capital of the US.” To the left of that is a PGM-17 Thor IRBM. Between the Thor and the G-38 is the rocket sled used by American Flyer in 1962 to test advanced concepts in preparation for a sponsored descent of Mt Everest.

As Stu Powley notes, the sixth photo is of an SM-65 Atlas missile, although I’m not sure which variant it is. After the E and F models came off nuclear alert in 1964-65, many were refurbished as satellite launchers, all of the orbital Mercury missions were launched with modified D models in 1962-63. This one is wearing Strategic Air Command markings, which would have been accurate for a missile on nuclear alert rather than a launch vehicle. The Air Force Space & Missile Museum currently has an Atlas-F in its collection and the KSC rocket garden has an Atlas-D with a Mercury capsule mock-up, so there’s a good chance that the pictured vehicle is still on display.

The seventh image is of the Cape Canaveral Light, built in 1868 and moved to its present location in 1893-94.

The eighth and final photo was taken in the Rocket Garden at the KSC Visitor Complex. As Steve DeGaetano and Patrick Devlin have noted, that is an F-1 in the background and a J-2 in the foreground.

I first visited CCAFS/KSC in 1979, and like Warren, took the bus tours that kept you very close to the buses themselves except in a few designated areas. Bus tour operations were contracted out to TWA, and CCAFS security was contracted out to Pan Am. It’s interesting to note that these two airline giants who banked heavily on promotions associating them with space travel are no longer in business.

In addition to the LC-5/6 blockhouse, we also toured the blockhouse at LC-14, where John Glenn was launched on the first US orbital flight aboard a Mercury-Atlas in Friendship 7. My sister and I were placed at a control station by the guide, and I got to hit the “launch” button as he talked us through what the launch sequence would have been. That blockhouse has since been renovated into a very nice conference center, which I toured in 2002.

Great memories! Thanks again, Warren, for sharing them, and I look forward to seeing the rest of the bunch!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I have some additional Kennedy Space Center photos (not from Warren) that I may have to share here someday. I think there are some different views.

Chuck, I can’t believe you put your job and family above GDB. I’m just going to have to sulk for a while!

Stuart Powley, thanks!

Ken Martinez, it is still so bizarre to me that by the third attempt to land on the moon, the American public had lost interest. HOW??

Steve DeGaetano, I realized after writing the post that the engine in the foreground was a bit smaller…

Melissa, I have heard about space camp forever, but I don’t really have a clear idea of what kids do when they are there. I’m sure it is much more fun than the day camp that I went to in Pennsylvania!

JG, I did look at Boron on Google Maps satellite view, but was unclear as to where the test towers were - I’m sure they are much more impressive from the ground. Rocketdyne used to test rocket engines in Simi Valley when I was a kid - it was not close, but even so, you could hear and FEEL the intense rumble. It was so cool! I’ve watched a number of videos of people firing off their small test rockets - they have to get clearance from the FAA, and probably other agencies as well. Still, what a bunch of fun.

Warren, see? I told you people would like these!

Patrick Devlin, oh, I am jealous that you got to see some launches. It must be amazing. I would have loved to see a shuttle launch. Oh well. Thanks for the ID on the smaller engine.

The Disney Dudebro, I agree, hopefully the interest in Space X and other private companies encourages more rocketry and space exploration. So many people think of it as a waste of money, and I couldn’t disagree more.

outsidetheberm, I am hoping that you have a few extra moon rocks that you can give me!

KS, the peak of the space program was such an exciting time. I wish I had a better head for math and science! I love it, but… yeesh. I was so jealous of the people cheering for the Falcon Heavy launch that I shared recently - all of those amazing people who had contributed in some way. Must be very rewarding.

Steve DeGaetano, those rocket engines are amazing - they almost look “kit bashed”, as if they are props made by ILM. All those little fiddly bits!

Patrick Devlin, I was just going to say… think of all of the many thousands of people all over the country - Alabama, Texas, Florida, etc, who were involved in aerospace.

Melissa, I think the Sherman brothers would be proud. And the Sherman sisters too!

Chuck, HOLY MACKEREL, amazing. I feel so guilty that I somehow passed the responsibility of research on to you, a regular Joe just living his life! That’s what you get for reading GDB I guess. No good deed goes unpunished, or something. I can’t even tell you how amazed I am that you went to so much effort. Now… how much of that info was just in your head? This stuff seems to be right up your alley, but my guess is that you still had to put in some serious time.

Chuck II, again, thank you!

Chuck said...

Sadly, most of it really was in my head, and I knew where to look the rest of it up. I need a life. I was a huge Air Force space program nut in junior high, and I practically lived at the Air Force Museum (known today as the National Museum of the United States Air Force) where my mom was a volunteer docent. I'd go there on snow days when school was closed. My mom would actually come to me with questions about the displays; she had trouble identifying the aircraft if they moved them around.

It also helps that I've been to LC-5/6/26 a couple of times, and it was just so amazing to be there that it made a big impression on me. I really did enjoy having the memories brought back to the surface.

Warren Nielsen said...


OK, I stand corrected. Might have some more stuff headed your way pretty soon.