Tag Archives: Launch Complex 39A

7 December 1972 05:33:00 UTC, T + 00:00:00.63

Apollo 17 (AS-512) on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, 21 November 1972. (NASA)
Apollo 17 (AS-512) on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, 21 November 1972. (NASA)

7 December 1972: At 05:33:00.63 UTC (12:33 a.m., Eastern Standard Time), Apollo 17, the last manned mission to The Moon in the 20th century, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The destination was the Taurus-Littrow Valley.

The Mission Commander, on his third space flight, was Eugene A. Cernan. The Command Module Pilot was Ronald A. Evans, on his first space flight, and the Lunar Module Pilot was Harrison H. Schmitt, also on his first space flight.

Gene Cernan, seated, with Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans. (NASA)
Gene Cernan, seated, with Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans. (NASA)

Schmitt was placed in the crew because he was a professional geologist. He replaced Joe Engle, an experienced test pilot who had made sixteen flights in the X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane. Three of those flights were higher than the 50-mile altitude, qualifying Engle for U.S. Air Force astronaut wings.

The launch of Apollo 17 was delayed for 2 hours, 40 minutes, due to a minor mechanical malfunction. When it did liftoff, the launch was witnessed by more than 500,000 people.

Apollo 17/Saturn V (AS-512) at Pad 39A during countdown. (NASA 72C-5901)

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 (110.642 meters) tall. The first and second stages were 33 feet (10.058 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed 6,200,000 pounds (2,948,350 kilograms). It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.

The 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 and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 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 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust (6770.19 kilonewtons), each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level (33,850.97 kilonewtons). These engines were ignited seven seconds prior to lift off and the outer four burned for 168 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 142 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. 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 (1,022.01 kilonewtons), and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust (717.28 kilonewtons).

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). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. 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.

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

Apollo 17 launched 3 years, 4 months, 20 days, 16 hours, 1 minute, 0 seconds after Apollo 11, the first manned flight to The Moon.

Apollo 17 (AS-512) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at 05:33:00 UTC, 7 December 1972. (NASA)
Apollo 17 (AS-512) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at 05:33:00 UTC, 7 December 1972. (NASA)
Apollo 17 (NASA S72-55070)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC

Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off from LC 39A, 08:35:34 UTC, 4 December 1998. (NASA)

4 December 1998, 08:35:34 UTC: Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an 11-day mission to assemble the Unity docking connector module (Node 1) of the International Space Station.

The Mission Commander of STS 88 was Colonel Robert Donald Cabana, United States Marine Corps, on his fourth (and final) space flight. The Pilot was Colonel Frederick Wilford Sturcklow, U.S. Marine Corps, on his first space flight. There were four Mission Specialists: Colonel Jerry Lynn Ross, U.S. Air Force; Major Nancy Jane Currie, U.S. Army, on her third space flight; James Hansen Newman, Ph.D., on his third flight; and Sergei Konstantinovick Krikalev (Серге́й Константинович Крикалёв), a Cosmonaut-Researcher for NPO Energia, on his fourth of six space flights.

Left to right: Sergei K. krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Rober D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)
Crew of STS-88: (left to right) Sergei K. Krikalev (seated), Jerry L. Ross, Robert D. Cabana, Frederick W. Sturckow, James H. Newman and Nancy J. Currie (seated). (NASA)

The first segment of the space station was the Functional Cargo Block, known as Zarya (Заря́), which had been placed in Earth orbit two weeks earlier, 20 November 1998, by a Proton-K three-stage rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Node 1 provided a docking station for arriving space craft. Adaptor points for additional modules were built into the node’s circumference. Endeavour carried Node 1 in its cargo bay. It was maneuvered into position and installed using the shuttle’s robotic arm, operated by Major Currie.

U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to Russian-built Zarya module, forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration STS088-703-019)
U.S.-built Unity module (right) attached to the Functional Cargo Block (the Russian-built Zarya module), forming the basic components of the International Space Station (ISS), photographed in Earth orbit, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

Endeavour returned to Earth at the Shuttle Landing Facitity, Kennedy Space Center, at 10:53:29 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 15 December 1998 (03:53, 16 December 1998, UTC). The total duration of Mission STS-88 was 11 days, 19 hours, 18 minutes, 47 seconds.

Endeavour touches down at Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST (NASA)
Endeavour touches down at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility at 10:53:29 p.m. EST, 15 December 1998. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 December 1992, 13:24:00 UTC

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) launches from LC-39A, 13:24:00 UTC, 2 December 1992. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) launches from LC-39A, 13:24:00 UTC, 2 December 1992. (NASA)

2 December 1992, 13:24:00 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a classified Satellite Data System-2 military communications satellite, USA-89. This satellite also included the Heritage (Radiant Agate) infrared early warning system for detection of ballistic missile launches. Several other satellites and scientific experiments were also carried.

This was Discovery‘s 15th flight.

The Mission Commander was Captain David M. Walker, United States Navy, on his third space flight, with shuttle pilot Colonel Robert D. Cabana, U. S. Marine Corps, on his second. Three Mission Specialists were aboard: Colonel Guion S. Bluford, Ph.D., U.S. Air Force on his fourth and final space flight; Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Clifford, U.S. Army, first flight; Colonel James S. Voss, U.S. Army, second flight.

Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California at 20:43:17 UTC, 9 December 1992. The duration of the mission was 7 days, 7 hours, 19 minutes, 17 seconds.

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) flight crew. Front row, left to right: Guion S. Bluford and James S. Voss. Back row, David M. Walker, Robert D. Cabana and Micael R. Clifford. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-53) flight crew. Front row, left to right: COL Guion S. Bluford, PH.D., USAF, and COL James S. Voss, USA. Back row, CAPT David M. Walker, USN, COL Robert D. Cabana, USMC, and LCOL Michael R. Clifford, USA. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 November 1969, 16:22:00.68 UTC, T plus 000.00.00.68

Apollo 12 Saturn V (AS-507) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 16:22:00 UTC, 14 November 1969. (NASA image scanned and remastered by Dan Beaumont)

14 November 1969: At 16:22:00.68 UTC (11:22:00 a.m., Eastern Standard Time), the Apollo 12 Saturn V (AS-507) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

This was the second manned space flight to the Moon. The flight crew were Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., United States Navy, Mission Commander; Commander Richard F. Gordon, Jr., U.S. Navy, Command Module Pilot; Commander Alan L. Bean, U.S. Navy, Lunar Module Pilot.

Their destination was Oceanus Procellarum.

The crew of Apollo 12: Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., Richard F. Gordon, Jr., and Alan L. Bean. (NASA)

Two lightning strikes 36.5 seconds after liftoff caused the spacecraft’s automatic systems to shut down three fuel cells, leaving Apollo 12 operating on battery power. A third electrical disturbance at T + 52 seconds caused the “8 ball” attitude indicator in the cockpit to fail. A quick thinking ground controller, the “EECOM,” called “Try SCE to Aux.” Alan Bean recalled this from a simulation a year earlier, found the correct switch and restored the failed systems.

The lightning discharge was caused by the Apollo 12/Saturn V vehicle accelerating through rain at approximately 6,300 feet (1,950 meters). There were no thunderstorms in the area. Post-flight analysis indicates that it is probable that the lightning discharge started at the top of the Apollo 12/Saturn V vehicle. Energy of the discharge was estimated at 10⁴–10⁸ joules.

Lightning discharge near Launch Complex 39A (NASA)

Soon after passing Mach 1, the Saturn V rocket encountered the maximum dynamic pressure (“Max Q”) of 682.95 pounds per square foot (0.327 Bar) as it accelerated through the atmosphere.

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. The first and second stages were 33 feet, .2 inches (10.089 meters) in diameter. Fully loaded and fueled the rocket weighed approximately 6,200,000 pounds (2,948,350 kilograms).¹ It could lift a payload of 260,000 pounds (117,934 kilograms) to Low Earth Orbit.

The 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 and had an empty weight of 290,000 pounds (131,542 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 5,100,000 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, producing 1,522,000 pounds of thrust (6770.19 kilonewtons), each, for a total of 7,610,000 pounds of thrust at Sea Level (33,851 kilonewtons).² These engines were ignited 6.50 seconds prior to Range Zero and the outer four burned for 161.74 seconds. The center engine was shut down after 135.24 seconds to reduce the rate of acceleration. The F-1 engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation at Canoga Park, California.

The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The second stage weighed 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) empty and 1,060,000 pounds loaded. 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 (1,022.01 kilonewtons), and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust (5,165.5 kilonewtons).³

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). It had a dry weight of 23,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) and fully fueled weighed 262,000 pounds. The third stage had one J-2 engine and also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. 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.

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

¹ The AS-507 total vehicle mass at First Stage Ignition (T – 6.50 seconds) was 6,137,868  pounds (2,784,090 kilograms).

² Post-flight analysis gave the total thrust of AS-507’s S-IC stage as 7,594,000 pounds of thrust (33,780 kilonewtons).

³ Post-flight analysis gave the total thrust of AS-507’s S-II stage as 1,161,534 pounds of thrust (5,166.8 kilonewtons).

⁴ Post-flight analysis gave the total thrust of AS-507’s S-IVB stage as 206,956 pounds of thrust (920.6 kilonewtons) during the first burn; 207,688 pounds (923.8 kilonewtons) during the second burn.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 November 1995, 12:30:43.071 UTC, T minus Zero

Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-74) lifts off from Pad 39A, 7:30:43 a.m., EST, 12 November 1995. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-74) lifts off from Pad 39A, 7:30:43 a.m., EST, 12 November 1995. (NASA)

12 November 1995, 12:30:43.071 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-74) is launched from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The mission commander was Colonel Kenneth Donald Cameron, United States Marine Corps, and Colonel James Donald Halsell, Jr., United States Air Force, was the shuttle pilot.

There were three mission specialists on this flight: Colonel Chris Austin Hadfield, Royal Canadian Air Force; Colonel Jerry Lynn Ross, U.S. Air Force; and Colonel William Suries McArthur, Jr., United States Army. Colonels Cameron, Halsell, Hadfield and McArthur had all been military test pilots before joining the space program. Colonel Ross was a flight test engineer.

Left to right: Colonel William S. McArthur, Jr., U.S. Army; Colonel James D. Halsell, Jr., U.S. Air Force (seated); Colonel Jerry L. Ross, U.S. Air Force; Colonel Kenneth D. Cameron, USMC (seated); Colonel Chris A. Hadfield, Royal Canadian Air Force/Canadian Space Agency. (NASA)

Mission STS-74 was the second orbital docking with the Russian space station Mir. The astronauts installed a docking module which had been carried in Atlantis‘ cargo bay. This allowed the shuttle to dock with the space station, and supplies and equipment were transferred during the three days the two spacecraft were docked.

Space Station Mir, photographed from Space Shuttle Atlantis during Mission STS-74. (NASA)

Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center 12:01:27 p.m., EST, on 20 November. The duration of the mission was  8 days, 4 hours, 30 minutes, 44 seconds.

Space Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) lands at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the end of Mission STS-74, 12:01:27 p.m., EST, 20 November 1995.. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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