Tag Archives: Kennedy Space Center

24 July 1950

Bumper 8 launch at Launch Complex 3, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, 24 July 1950. The wooden structure in the foreground houses the firing crew and support personnel. (NASA)

24 July 1950: The first rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place. Bumper 8 was a two-stage rocket consisting of a captured German V-2 ballistic missile as the first stage and a WAC Corporal sounding rocket as the upper, second, stage. The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 3 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and followed a ballistic trajectory over the Joint Long Range Proving Ground. This was a low-angle atmospheric flight. The WAC Corporal reached an altitude of 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) and traveled 200 miles (322 kilometers) downrange.

The Bumper Project was a U.S. Army Ordnance Corps program, with overall responsibility contracted to the General Electric Corporation. The V-2s used in the Bumper Project were modified at accept the WAC Corporal second stage. Compressed air was used to separate the stages after the V-2 engine was cut off.

The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile weighing 28,000 pounds (12,500 kilograms) when fully loaded. It carried a 2,200 pound (1,000 kilogram) explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. Propellant was a 75/25 mixture of of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as oxidizer.

When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,761 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (322 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles (142–206 kilometers), depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour (2,881 kilometers per hour).

The V-2 could only hit a general area and was not militarily effective. Germany used it against England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium as a terror weapon. More than 3,200 V-2 rockets were launched against these countries.

At the end of World War II, many V-2 rockets and components were captured by Allied forces and were brought to the United States for research, along with many of the German engineers, scientists and technicians who had worked on the German rocket program. Others were captured by the Soviet army.

Bumper 8 supported by a gantry at Launch Complex 3, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (U.S. Army)

The WAC Corporal was a liquid-fueled hypergolic rocket. After separation from the first stage, the WAC Corporal was capable of reaching more than 80 miles (129 kilometers). It was designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and built by Douglas Aircraft. The rocket carried small research packages into the upper atmosphere. The two-stage rocket was used to develop launch techniques and to refine the separation of upper stages at very high speed.

Now named the Kennedy Space Center, but known simply as “The Cape,” the location was selected to allow rocket testing to take place over the Atlantic Ocean, minimizing danger to persons and property. As one of the points within the United States closest to the Equator, rockets launched on an eastward trajectory receive additional velocity due to the Earth’s rotation.

Launch Pad 3 at Cape Canaveral, circa 1950. A rocket is on the pad surrounded by the gantry structure. (U.S. Air Force)
Launch Complex 3 at Cape Canaveral, 28 July 1950. The Bumper 7 two-stage rocket is on the pad surrounded by a gantry structure. It was launched the day after this photograph was taken. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 July 1999, 16:31:00 UTC, T minus Zero

Colonel Eileen Marie Collins, U.S. Air Force, wearing ACES suit. (Annie Leibovitz)
Colonel Eileen Marie Collins, U.S. Air Force, wearing ACES suit. (Annie Leibovitz/NASA Art Program)

23 July 1999: at 12:31 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (16:31:00 UTC), the Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) lifted off on its 26th mission, STS-93, to place the Chandra X-ray Observatory in orbit. The total mission duration was 4 days, 22 hours, 49 minutes, 37 seconds.

In command was Colonel Eileen Marie Collins, United States Air Force, on her third shuttle flight. This was the first time that a space shuttle mission had been commanded by a woman.

Colonel Collins had previously served as pilot aboard Discovery STS-63 and Atlantis STS-84. She would later command Discovery (STS-114), the “Return To Flight” mission following the loss of Columbia. She logged 38 days, 10 hours of space flight. Eileen Collins retired in 2006.

Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-93) launch from Launch Complex 39B, Kennedy Space Center, 16:31:00 UTC, 23 July 1999. (NASA)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 July 2011, 21:54:00 UTC

Atlantis touches down at the Shuttle Landing Facility, 0554 EDT, 21 July 2011. (NASA)
Atlantis touches down at the Shuttle Landing Facility, 0554 EDT, 21 July 2011. (NASA)

21 July 2011, 5:54:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, (21:54:00 UTC) Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135, landed at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Wheel stop was 5:57:54 a.m., EDT.

This 13-day mission had been the thirty-third flight for Atlantis. It had spent a total of 307 days in Earth orbit.

This brought to a close The Era of American Manned Space Flight which began 50 years, 2 months, 15 days, 20 hours, 23 minutes, 41 seconds earlier with the launch of Alan Shepard in Freedom 7, 5 May 1961, 09:34:13 EST.

The benefits of the NASA programs over these decades are immeasurable.

Space Shuttle Atlantis main wheel stop. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Atlantis main wheel stop. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 July 1975

Apollo CSM-111 in orbit, as seen from Soyuz 19, 17 July 1975. (NASA )

At 12:20 UTC, 15 July 1975, Soyuz 19 launched from Gagarin’s Start at Baikonur Cosmosdrome, Kazakh SSR with Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov, both on their second space flights. The launch vehicle was a Soyuz-U three-stage rocket.

At 19:50 UTC, 15 July 1975, Apollo ASTP lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The crew was Thomas P. Stafford on his fourth space flight, Vance D. Brand on his first, and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton also on his first. The launch vehicle was a Saturn IB.

At 16:19:09 UTC, 17 July 1975, the two orbiting spacecraft rendezvoused in orbit and docked. Using a Docking Module airlock, the two crews each opened their spacecraft hatches and shook hands. The two ships remained joined for 44 hours, separating once for the Soyuz crew to take its turn to maneuver for docking with the Apollo Command and Service Module.

The Apollo command module from the mission is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The descent module of Soyuz 19 is on display at the RKK Energiya museum in Korolyov, Moscow Oblast, Russia.

This was the final flight of the Apollo spacecraft.

Soyuz 19 in orbit, as seen from Apollo CSM-111, 17 July 1975. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 July 1969, 13:32:00.3 UTC, T plus

Apollo 11/Saturn V AS-506 at the moment of first stage ignition, T -6.9 seconds, 13:31:53.9 UTC, 16 July 1969. (NASA)

On Wednesday morning, 16 July 1969, the Apollo 11/Saturn V launch vehicle, AS-506), stood on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. On board were Neil Alden Armstrong, Mission Commander; Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot. Their destination was Mare Tranquillitatis, The Moon.

Neil Alden Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., flight crew of Apollo 11, 16–23 July 1969. (NASA)

The cryogenic liquid oxygen in the rocket’s propellant tanks cooled the humid Florida air to the point that frost formed on the tanks’ skin.

The mission was on schedule. At T – 6.1 seconds (13:31:53.9 UTC) the first of the five F-1 engines ignited, followed in quick succession by the others. When the engines had reached full thrust, the pad’s hold-down arms were released. First Motion—10.47 m/s² (34.35 ft/s²)—1.07 gs , was detected at T + 0.3 seconds (13:32:00.3 UTC, 9:32:00.3 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time). The umbilical was released at T + 0.6 seconds. The Saturn V cleared the gantry tower and rolled onto its programmed course.

LIFT OFF! Apollo 11 (AS-506) launches from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 13:32:00.06 UTC, 16 July 1969. (NASA)

The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet, 0.15 inches (110.64621 meters) tall, from the tip of the escape tower to the bottom of the F-1 engines. Fully loaded and fueled, AS-506 weighed  6,477,875 pounds (2,938,315 kilograms).

The Saturn V first stage was designated S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall, 33 feet, 1.2 inches (10.089 meters) in diameter, and had an empty weight of 287,531 pounds (130,422 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,023,648 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, which were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California.

Saturn V first stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines running, producing 7.5 million pounds of thrust. Ice falls from the rocket. The hold-down arms are releasing. (NASA)

The AS-506 S-IC stage’s five F-1 engines  produced 7,552,000 pounds of thrust (33,593 kilonewtons). According to the post-mission flight evaluation report, “The F-1 engines performance levels during the AS-506 flight showed the smallest deviations of any S-IC Flight.” The center engine shut down at T + 135.20 to limit the rocket’s acceleration, and the outer four were shut down at T + 161.63 seconds.

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The AS-506 second stage weighed 79,714 pounds (36,158 kilograms), dry, and 1,058,140 pounds (479,964 kilograms), fueled. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.

The Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by Douglas Aircraft Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). The AS-506 S-IVB third stage had a dry weight of 24,852 pounds (11,273 kilograms) and fully fueled, it weighed 262,613 pounds (119,119 kilograms). The third stage had one J-2 engine which also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. At the first burn, the J-2 produced 202,603 pounds of thrust (901.223 kilonewtons). The S-IVB would place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection. At this second burn, it produced 201,061 pounds  of thrust (894.364 kilonewtons).

Apollo 11 Command and Service Module CSM-107 being assembled to the SA-506 Saturn V in the Vehicle Assembly Building, April 1969. (NASA)

The Apollo Command/Service Module was built by the Space and Information Systems Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Downey, California. The Apollo 11 Command and Service Module, CSM-107, weighed 109,646 pounds (49,735 kilograms).

The SPS engine was an AJ10-137, built by Aerojet General Corporation of Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust (91.19 kilonewtons). It was designed for a 750 second burn, or 50 restarts during a flight.

The Apollo Lunar Module was built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation to carry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface, and return. There was a descent stage and ascent stage. The LM was intended only for operation in the vacuum of space, and was expended after use.

The LM was 23 feet, 1 inches (7.036 meters) high with a maximum landing gear spread of 31 feet (9.449 meters). It weighed 33,500 pounds (15,195 kilograms). The spacecraft was designed to support the crew for 48 hours, though in later missions, this was extended to 75 hours.

The Descent Stage was powered by a single TRW LM Descent Engine. The LMDE used hypergoloc fuel and was throttleable. It produced from 1,050 pounds of thrust (4.67 kilonewtons) to 10,125 pounds (45.04 kilonewtons). The Ascent Stage was powered by a Bell Aerospace Lunar Module Ascent Engine. This also used hypergolic fuels. It produced 3,500 pounds of thrust (15.57 kilonewtons).

Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.

The Moon. The terminator is bisecting Mare Tranquillitatis. (Rob Pettengill)

Note: All timing, acceleration, weight/mass, and thrust data is from: Saturn V Launch Vehicle Flight Evaluation Report—AS-506, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, MPR-SAT-FE-69-9, 20 September 1969.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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