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Astrophysics Science Division | Sciences and Exploration

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The Shuttle Columbia
KSC Launch Site Tour

In a spectacular rush of light and sound, the space shuttle Columbia began its journey from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Learn more about the KSC Launch Site, where its resources and facilities are devoted toward taking care of the space shuttles and their launches.

Kennedy Space Center Press Site
The Press Site is the center for all news activities at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). in 2002, it included a 350-seat, covered grandstand with electrical and telephone service, a 90-seat auditorium for press conferences and briefings, and an audiovisual laboratory. The major television networks and other media have permanent facilities at the Press Site on land leased from NASA. Located just 3 miles (3.22 kilometers) from the Shuttle pads, it is an excellent location for viewing a launch.

The Shuttle Launch Pads
The twin space shuttle launch pads, formally known as Pad 39-A and Pad 39-B, are just three miles from the Press Site. They were originally designed to support the Apollo program and later modified for Space Shuttle launch operations. Major changes included the erection of a new Fixed Service Structure (FSS), the addition of a Rotating Service Structure (RSS), and the replacement of the Saturn flame deflectors with three new flame deflectors. The two pads are virtually identical and roughly octagonal in shape.

For this mission, the Hubble payload was stowed into the shuttle while in its upright position. This occurs through the launch pad's payload changeout room.
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More Pad Facts:


The distance between the pads is 2,657 meters
(8,715 ft).

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 (290 ft) high and has a capacity of 1,135,000 liters (300,000 gallons).

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 39-A underwent a renovation between June and September 1993. Workers applied 13,773 gallons (52,130.805 liters) of paint in two coats, and the sandblasting operation used 1866 tons of sand.

The Weather Protection System protects Shuttle tiles from wind-blown debris, rain and hail. Between the Shuttle's belly and the external tank, wheeled metal doors slide to within 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) of each other, providing protection for the lower part of the Shuttle.

Approximately 1.25 million feet (381,000 meters) of tubing and piping reside at Launch Complex 39. They vary in size from .25 inches (.635 centimeters) to 114 inches (289.6 centimeters) in diameter. This is enough pipe to reach from Orlando to Miami.

Launch Control Center (LCC)
The Launch Control Center is a four-story building that is the electronic "brain" of Launch Complex 39. Attached to the southeast corner of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), it is 5,535 meters (18,159 ft) from Pad 39A. At the time it was constructed, advances in electronics had made it unnecessary to continue locating blockhouses adjacent to launch pads. The LCC houses the four firing rooms from which the launches are controlled.   CONTINUE...

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Up and Away! ::
The space shuttle Endeavor races against Earth's gravity to reach for the stars (2000).
 
3... 2... 1... ::
A view of the countdown clock. The launch pad can be seen beyond the river.
 
Standing Together ::
July 2001 - space shuttles Discovery (foreground) and Atlantis (background) both stand ready on Kennedy's twin launch pads.
 
Complex Rigging ::
A great shot of the shuttle, the Fixed Service Structure (FSS), and the Rotating Service Structure (RSS).
 
LCC - The Command Station ::
The Launch Control Center houses the firing rooms where launches are controlled. The VAB looms behind it.
 
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