B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 4


Shuttle Landing, and Kai on the Centaur Porch

Forum commentary here:


Ok, that's enough OMBUU. We're just going through the photo album, one sheet at a time, so things may or not be equally as interesting, and may or may not be quite chronologically just so, but in the interests of getting it all, I'm gonna get it all.

This shot includes an image of the Shuttle coming in for a landing (sorry, I cannot remember which mission, but perhaps my son might), as well as images of my son taken with the Pads in the background.

You can't really see it, but the orbiter is in the air, inbound to runway 33 to the right of the VAB in the top left photo. It's a shade below the roof height of the VAB. Find the white trashcan above the top corner of the windshield on the pickup truck, then notice the guy in the light-colored shirt who almost looks as if he's sitting on the trash can. Immediately left of him, farther away, is another person's head that more or less touches the light-shirt guy's head. Left of THAT guy's head, is a gap, before you encounter another head. The orbiter is directly above the center of that gap. Maybe I'll play around with this shot some day, to enhance it somehow. I dunno.

The steel platform my son Kai is standing on in the lower right photo is the "Centaur Porch" and eventually wound up on the FSS where it was supposed to support the Centaur Rolling Beam Umbilical Assembly, or RBUS, (pronounced "arbus"), but the Challenger disaster put a stop to all Shuttle Centaur operations and the porch remained on the FSS, unused.

My son, by the way, was, is, and ever shall be, the light and the rudder of my life, and compared to Kai, all else pales into laughable insignificance.

Just so you know.


Additional commentary below the image.

Top Left:

Like it says up top, there's a Space Shuttle, traveling from left to right, inbound for runway 33 in this image, but you'd never know it to look at this picture. Right now, in another window, I've got full-size version of this image open and I've further zoomed in on it with IrfanView to 459% (such a nice round number) and the smudge that is the inbound Space Shuttle is indeed there, and is indeed precisely where says it is, in the forum verbiage, above, but it's faint, just the slightest shade darker than the background sky. From the looks of things, staring at that smudge, the orientation of the Orbiter is nearly dead-level, which puts them in their landing pre-flare orientation, matching quite well with the information available elsewhere regarding the terminal area energy management landing profile, with their apparent elevation being just a touch under 500 feet, which comparison with the elevation of the top of the VAB is giving them.

This shot was taken from right alongside the crawlerway, the gravelly-looking surface of which can be seen outlining the front-end of that little pick-up truck down near the bottom of the frame. We were all parked reasonably close to the toe of the pad slope at B Pad, just outside the perimeter fence. Back in those days they would occasionally allow for badged personnel to bring in their friends and family to view general KSC open-houses, or sometimes more specific events like this landing, and I'm pretty sure that me and Kai never missed a single one of these things. Kai was pretty young at the time, but even back then he had an uncannily strong sense and understanding of historical-event-level things (he wound up getting his college degree in history, in fact), and between the irresistible draw of that and the insane amount of fun we always had running around together, we were on that shit, every goddamned time.

Top Right:

And here we are with the pad behind us, just outside the perimeter fence, on the little road that wanders off around to the west and north of Pad 39-B, heading out through the middle of some pretty brutal back-country swamp, to pretty much nowhere.

In the background, up on the pad deck, the big Manitowoc is sitting, but there's no sign of the OMBUU hanging on the front side of the RSS, which dates this image to some time before the images of the OMBUU lift were taken.

This frame is actually a pretty good general vicinity and layout shot of the whole pad (be sure to zoom in, to get a good look), with the pad slope extending out of frame to the right, and all of the major elements of the pad in plain view, starting with the SSW water tower (Sound Suppression Water, and yes, I see that "water" is in there twice, so please go away, shut the fuck up, and leave me alone about it), on the far right, and then, heading left, across the pad deck and the north piping bridge just above it, past the Manitowoc crane, to the foot of the FSS with the Hammerhead Crane (boom facing west, away from the flame trench, and it was never abbreviated as "HHC" or "HC", and why in the fucking hell some, or even most, things got abbreviations and toxically dopey acronyms, while some did not, shall everlastingly remain one of the Great Mysteries of the Universe, and I'm sure I'll never learn the answer) and Lightning Mast (nope, no acronym for you, either) on top of it, and the RSS partially in front of it and extending further left all the way over to Column Line 7 on its far left, descending down to behind Kai's head. The white box-looking thing on top of the RSS, directly in line with the FSS behind it, with a black square cutout opening on its side, is the RCS Room, and if you look close, you can see the SRB access platforms to either side of it, protruding just a little bit out farther in front of it. I'm pretty sure the near-side (as seen in this image) set of SRB access platforms is where the bottom right image on the previous page was taken from.

But now you've got a little more insight. Now you've got a somewhat better idea as to the cycloptic scale of things, after you got a look at a couple of those frames of the OMBUU lift, on page 2.

So that's kinda nice. And as one more little piece of scale information, from the level of the ground that Kai is standing on, to the elevation of the top of the lightning mast, up above the hammerhead crane, it's just about 400 feet. So it's not the Empire State Building, but neither is it a single-family dwelling. And it's a lot wider and much more filled up with zillions of exotic and neato things than the Empire State Building, too. And cooler. Much much cooler than the Empire State Building ever dreamt of being. So yeah, it was pretty cool.

Just imagine how much fun it must have been to be a little kid who was really interested in the space program, getting to flit off every now and then, to restricted areas, where Moon Rockets and Space Shuttles flew. Oh yeah, Kai did just fine for himself back in those days. Just fine indeed.

Bottom Left:

Not a whole lot to say about this one. There's Kai, squinting into the camera, wishing that dad would hurry the fuck up and get the right goddamned angle on the picture so he could get back to wandering around and having more of the extraordinarily self-contained kind of fun that he was so damn good at, and off in the distance behind him is pad 39-A, just for good measure. So all the main players at Launch Complex 39 have now had their picture taken, and they're all on this page. VAB, 39-B, and 39-A. Tra la la.

Bottom Right:

We're in the parking lot of the Ops (Operations) Building, which is the white building behind Kai, extending to right, all the way out of the frame. We're just outside the gate to the pad (and the little guard shack at the pad gate is hidden behind the left side of the ops building), and we're facing in the opposite direction that we were facing in the bottom left picture with A Pad in the far distance behind Kai. And Kai's standing on the Centaur Porch which will show up again in some of the subsequent images, but we are only now seeing it for the first time. In similar fashion to the OMBUU, it was fabricated off-site and delivered to the pad, where it would be hung later, on one of the struts that tied the FSS to the hinge column of the RSS (Column Line 1, in case you've forgotten), holding it very rigidly against the loads the hinge column took statically, simply holding its end of the RSS up, as well as dynamically, whenever the RSS was rotated, putting the two gigantic thrust bearings on the hinge column to work, allowing it to pivot around, while still supporting the crushing loads developed from the weight of that side of the RSS.

Kai's standing on an actual structural component of an active Space Shuttle launch pad, something that would take a pretty good beating from rocket exhaust every time the Shuttle flew, once it had been attached to the tower, and he knew it, and he liked that very much, and what kid wouldn't?

The whole Shuttle Centaur program was one of those things that gave me the galloping heebie jeebies, and should have never happened, but it did anyway, despite grave misgivings about every last bit of it, from ground support equipment like our Centaur porch here, all the way up to and including the damned Centaur itself. As mentioned previously, the whole thing was only derailed at the last minute because of the loss of Challenger, and had they kept flying safely, and actually gone on to use the goddamned thing, a lot of very knowledgeable people were convinced that they'd lose an orbiter with this monstrosity, and probably lose that orbiter on the very first attempt to use the thing.

This Centaur porch was finally installed on the tower, and the Centaur Rolling Beam Umbilical System (RBUS) which employed the porch to help support it was also installed on the tower, and I was right there standing next to the goddamned thing when it went through its first functional test, and everything about it was sketchy sketchy sketchy. The FSS was crawling with Engineering and Management, and they counted the test down, the counterweights fell, and the fully-extended RBUS arm came zooming back in to the main body of the contraption going sheengsheengsheeng as it did so, and the assembled higher-ups were all just as pleased as could be that the goddamned thing worked as advertised, but I remember thinking that it was some kind of band-aid tinker-toy nightmare, and that it was going to get someone before it was all said and done.

Fill up the Centaur with a railroad tank car load of psychotically explosive Lox and LH2 via the long skinny pole affair out on the end of the RBUS, which extended all the way out to the side of the Shuttle's fuselage where it would meet the plumbing which would then take that liquid dynamite and pump the Shuttle full of it in a place where such stuff was never intended to go, inside the fucking Payload Bay fer chrissakes, leave it stuck to the side of the Shuttle for the requisite fill, drain, and venting work that proceeded all the way down to T-minus zero, with main engines blazing away at full thrust, and then pray to the little baby jeesus up in the sky that A.) there wouldn't be a problem with the RBUS such that it hung up, in place, and got smashed into by the left OMS Pod on the orbiter as it was rising away from the pad, and B.) the goddamned Centaur itself wouldn't develop some kind of nightmare issue, locked inside the payload bay, unjettisonable for the full length of the uphill climb into orbit.

Sure. Sounds great! Let's do it!

And by god they were doing it, but they never got their chance with the thing.

I mourn the loss of mission 51-L to this day, but I fear had it flown, I would have wound up mourning the loss of a different mission later, one that flew with a fully-loaded Centaur on board.

So yeah, the fucking thing was never meant to be, and the fucking thing never happened.

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