Our team from the Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections at the University of South Florida (USF) Libraries, is working in collaboration with the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station 45th Space Wing, cultural resources division. We are using the latest in 3D laser scanning and imaging to assist with conservation, management, and public interpretive development of Cape Canaveral’s rich space history. Using newly available technologies in 3D laser scanning and survey, USF is recording the existing remains of building complexes associated with historical events such as John Glenn’s orbit of the Earth and the Mercury Missions that led the United States into Space. Other important features being documented include launch complexes associated with the American missile program that began largely as a result of the Cold War, such as the Minuteman and Atlas programs, and also the sacred ground resting place for the space shuttle remains from the Challenger disaster. Many of the structures and complexes are unique in design and use. Today, many are now abandoned and are being lost to time, but through these new 3D technologies, USF is providing valuable information for long-term conservation and future interpretation of these important historical sites.

Launch Complexes 1 -4

In mid-1950, work began to construct the first permanent access road and launch sites on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first area developed for launch operations became known as Launch Pads 1, 2, 3 and 4. Blockhouse 1&2 was constructed in the early 1950s (between 1951 and 1953) for use with the Snark winged missile program. The blockhouse had four-inch thick tempered laminated glass, and the image was received through the glass and reflected downward and inward to observers using a pair of mirrors and another tempered glass window. An observation deck was constructed above the blockhouse. The Air Force’s Snark missile was a surface-to-surface pilot-less bomber with a range of over 5,000 miles. It was the first and only long-range intercontinental winged missile.

Launch Complex 14

Launch Complex 14, is an Historical District and National Historical Landmark. Shown here is a model of the ramp stand area, documented with terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) survey that included the capture of the Blockhouse, ramp, stand, pad and surrounding environs and related structures. Launch Complex 14 was built between 1956 and 1957, and was most famously associated with the 1959 and 1960 manned Mercury missions.

Launch Complex 19

This historic launch complex at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, is unique in character. The complex is a deactivated launch site used by NASA to launch all of the Gemini manned spaceflights. It was also used by unmanned Titan I and Titan II missiles and was in use during the years from 1959 to 1966. A total of 27 launches, 10 of which were manned, were made from the site. It was last used for the Gemini XII launch, on November 11, 1966.

Launch Stand and Ramp

Theodolite Building

This building is one of two theodolite structures that were used for alignment and tracking of the missile before and during flight at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 19. This facility was used for the Titan ICBM testing and Gemini launch programs. Today, there are no longer any instrumentation in the building.

Blockhouse

This launch complex was used by NASA for all of the Gemini manned spaceflights, as well as the unmanned Titan I and Titan II missiles. It was built in 1959 by the US Army Corp of Engineers. The structure is made of reinforced concrete, with the site including a ready room, launch ramp and test stand along with the impressive the launch control center (Blockhouse).

Decontamination Building

During the Gemini-Titan II launches, a new type of fuel was used that required propulsion personnel to wear hazardous protection equipment. Hypergolic fuel, a liquid propellant, is highly toxic, and is handled under the most stringent safety conditions. This building was constructed to provide storage for the hazardous protective clothing needed by workers.

Launch Complexes 21 and 22

Launch Complex 21/22 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) was constructed in multiple phases between 1957 and 1960. The complex is associated with the Bull Goose and Mace American missile programs, with 64 total launches completed and with the final one in July of 1963.

The complex has several unique architectural elements including a large “v” shaped revetment that served as a protection measure for power and communication, and a launch building that had tube-like launching bays allowing the missiles to emerge directly from the structure with exhaust channeled into tubes to the outside of the building.

Launch Complexes 31 and 32

Launch Complex 31/32 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) was constructed between July 1959 and November 1960 at a location that previously had been a part of Launch Complex 9/10. The Complex is characterized by two nearly identical sets of facilities that include unique “beehive” shaped blockhouses, designed using reinforced concrete covered with an exterior shell consisting of cement filled hardened fabric sandbags. The twin configuration was due to the emphasis on the Minuteman program as part of the US response to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Launch Complex 34

Launch Complex 34 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) was constructed between June 1959 and February 1961, and is associated with the Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B missile test flights and two Apollo program launches–including the tragic Apollo 1 launch rehearsal fire and the successful Apollo 7 mission. The site was deactivated in November of 1971, and two years later it was abandoned in place. Today the site serves as a memorial to the Apollo 1 tragedy and is part of a National Historic Landmark District designation along with several historic Launch Complex facilities located on the CCAFS.

Apollo 1 Memorial

Launch Complex 34 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) was constructed between June 1959 and February 1961, and is associated with the Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B missile test flights and two Apollo program launches–including the tragic Apollo 1 launch rehearsal fire and the successful Apollo 7 mission. The site was deactivated in November of 1971, and two years later it was abandoned in place. Today the site serves as a memorial to the Apollo 1 tragedy and is part of a National Historic Landmark District designation along with several historic Launch Complex facilities located on the CCAFS.

Blockhouse

This Blockhouse and its rectangular shaped west side support building that was used for climate control, is made from re-enforced cement that is covered with a smoothed cement. The support building is attached to the circular blockhouse by a covered breezeway. There is an observation deck and access to the deck via stairs on the exterior of the structure.

Flame Deflectors

There were two flame deflectors made of steel frame, covered in 1” steel plates and with a 4” layer of heat resistant ceramic, that were available for Launch Complex 34. One deflector was used with the launch and the other was kept in case of any failure or need that might arise. These deflectors weigh over 150 tons and measure 43 feet in length, 32 feet wide, and 21 feet in height. They were moved to the pad or stored away via a rail system. These deflectors protected the vehicle and launch pedestal by diverting engine flames in controlled directions. Their inverted “V” shape and their welded and bolted steel design is of a unique construction and engineering. Launch Complex 34 is where the tragic Apollo 1 incident occurred, and today these deflectors are a backdrop on the pad that stands as a memorial to that event.

Project in the News

USF News

USF News piece by Katy Hennig, covering the first year of our five year documentation program to digitally preserve and develop monitoring and condition reports for historic launch complexes at Cape Canaveral. Principal Investigators, Drs. Lori Collins and Travis Doering are now the Directors of the Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections in the USF Libraries, and are also creating a permanent archive of the work that can be used for research, education and curriculum development, and heritage tourism.

Air Force Civil Engineers

This news piece was created by the Air Force Civil Engineers, who promoted the project to demonstrate the stewardship and preservation work that is being undertaken through this partnership between the Air Force and the University of South Florida.

DHHC Online