Vehicle Assembly Building
|Vehicle Assembly Building|
|Former names||Vertical Assembly Building|
|Town or city||Titusville|
|Coordinates||28°35′11″N 80°39′5″W / 28.58639°N 80.65139°W|
|Height||526 ft (160 m)|
|Diameter||716 ft × 518 ft (218 m × 158 m)|
|Floor area||8 acres (32,000 m2)|
|Design and construction|
Vehicle Assembly Building
|Location||Kennedy Space Center Florida, U.S.|
|Area||8 acres (3 ha)|
|MPS||John F. Kennedy Space Center MPS|
|NRHP reference No.||99001642|
|Added to NRHP||January 21, 2000|
The Vehicle Assembly Building (originally the Vertical Assembly Building), or VAB, is a large building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), designed to assemble large pre-manufactured space vehicle components, such as the massive Saturn V, the Space Shuttle and the Space Launch System, and stack them vertically onto one of three mobile launcher platforms used by NASA. As of March 2022, the first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket was assembled inside in preparation for the Artemis 1 mission, which launched on November 16, 2022.
At 129,428,000 cu ft (3,665,000 m3), it is the eighth-largest building in the world by volume as of 2022. The building is at Launch Complex 39 at KSC, 149 miles (240 km) south of Jacksonville, 219 miles (352 km) north of Miami, and 50 miles (80 km) due east of Orlando, on Merritt Island on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
The VAB is the largest single-story building in the world, was the tallest building (526 ft or 160 m) in Florida until 1974, and is the tallest building in the United States outside an urban area.
The VAB, which was completed in 1966, was originally built for the vertical assembly of the Apollo–Saturn V space vehicle and was referred to as the Vertical Assembly Building. In anticipation of post-Apollo projects such as the Space Shuttle program, it was renamed the Vehicle Assembly Building on February 3, 1965. It was subsequently used to mate the Space Shuttle orbiters to their external fuel tanks and solid rocket boosters. Once the complete space vehicle was assembled on a mobile launcher platform, a crawler-transporter moved it to Launch Complex-39A or 39B.
Sometime prior to the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, NASA installed a sub-roof inside the VAB to deal with falling concrete debris as a result of the building's age.
The VAB was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2020.
In 1963, NASA contracted Urbahn Architects to design and build the VAB. Construction began with driving the first steel foundation piles on Aug. 2, 1963. It was part of NASA's massive effort to send astronauts to the Moon for the Apollo program. Altogether, 4,225 pilings were driven down 164 feet to bedrock with a foundation consisting of 30,000 cubic yards (23,000 m3) of concrete. Construction of the VAB required 98,590 short tons (197,180,000 lb; 89,440,000 kg) of steel. The building was completed in 1966. The VAB is 526 feet (160.3 m) tall, 716 feet (218.2 m) long and 518 feet (157.9 m) wide. It covers 8 acres (32,000 m2), and encloses 129,428,000 cubic feet (3,665,000 m3) of space. Located on Florida's Atlantic coast, the building was constructed to withstand hurricanes and tropical storms. Despite this, it has received damage from several hurricanes (see below).
There are four entries to the bays located inside the building, which are the four largest doors in the world. Each door is 456 feet (139.0 m) high, has seven vertical panels and four horizontal panels, and takes 45 minutes to completely open or close. The north entry that leads to the transfer aisle was widened by 40 feet (12.2 m) to allow entry of the shuttle orbiter. A central slot at the north entry allowed for passage of the orbiter's vertical stabilizer.
To lift the components of the Space Shuttle, the VAB housed five overhead bridge cranes, including two capable of lifting 325 tons, and 136 other lifting devices.
The building has air conditioning equipment, including 125 ventilators on the roof supported by four large air handlers (four cylindrical structures west of the building) rated at a total 10,000 tons of refrigeration (120,000,000 BTU/hr, 35 MW) to keep moisture under control. Air in the building can be completely replaced every hour. The large doors can allow fog to roll into the building and become trapped, leading to incorrect rumors that the building has its own weather and can form clouds.
The American flag painted on the building was the largest in the world when added in 1976 as part of United States Bicentennial celebrations, along with the star logo of the anniversary, later replaced by the NASA insignia in 1998. It is 209 feet (63.7 m) high and 110 feet (33.5 m) wide. Each of the stars on the flag is 6 feet (1.83 m) across, the blue field is the size of a regulation basketball court, and each of the stripes is 9 feet (2.74 m) wide. Work began in early 2007 to restore the exterior paint on the immense facility. Special attention was paid to the enormous American flag and NASA "meatball" insignia. The work repaired visible damage from years of storms and weathering. The flag and logo had been previously repainted in 1998 for NASA's 40th anniversary.
The most extensive exterior damage occurred during the storm season of 2004, when Hurricane Frances blew off 850 14-by-6-foot (4.3 m × 1.8 m) aluminum panels from the building, resulting in about 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of new openings in the sides. Twenty-five additional panels were blown off the east side by the winds from Hurricane Jeanne just three weeks later. Earlier in the season, Hurricane Charley caused significant but less serious damage, estimated to cost $700,000. Damage caused by these hurricanes was still visible in 2007. Some of these panels are "punch-outs", designed to detach from the VAB when a large pressure differential is created on the outside vs. the inside. This allows for equalization, and helps protect the structural integrity of the building during rapid changes in pressure such as in tropical cyclones.
The building has been used as a backdrop in several Hollywood movies including Marooned, SpaceCamp, Apollo 13, Contact, and others.
The Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 after which NASA temporarily (as early as 2012) offered public tours of the VAB. These tours were temporarily discontinued in February 2014 to allow for renovations to take place.
The NASA FY2013 budget included US$143.7 million for Construction of Facilities (CoF) requirements in support of what is now known as the Artemis program and its vehicles, including the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft. NASA began modifying Launch Complex 39 at KSC to support the new SLS in 2014, beginning with major repairs, code upgrades and safety improvements to the Launch Control Center, Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the VAB Utility Annex. This initial work will be required to support any launch vehicle operated from Launch Complex 39 and will allow NASA to begin modernizing the facilities, while vehicle-specific requirements are being developed.
The VAB could be used to some extent for assembly and processing of any future vehicles utilizing Launch Complex 39, in addition to renovations for SLS capabilities. On June 16, 2015, NASA released an announcement for proposals (AFP) seeking interest in using the VAB High Bay 2 and other complex facilities for commercial use in "assembling, integration, and testing of launch vehicles". This move is in line with the intent to migrate KSC towards acting as a spaceport accessible to both government and commercial ventures.
On April 21, 2016, NASA announced the selection of Orbital ATK (bought by Northrop Grumman as of 2019) to begin negotiations for High Bay 2. The "potential agreement" included an existing mobile launcher platform. NASA subsequently completed the agreement in August 2019 to lease High Bay 2 and Mobile Launcher Platform 3 to Northrop Grumman for use with their OmegA launch vehicle. However, development of OmegA was subsequently cancelled in September 2020. Northrop Grumman had yet to make any modifications to High Bay 2, and were using it for the storage of OmegA hardware. This hardware was scheduled to be removed from the VAB and returned to Northrop Grumman by the end of September 2020.
Aerial view of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in 2011
Space Launch System Artemis 1 rollout out of the VAB, 17 March 2022
VAB Beside the SLS Block 1 Artemis 1 during the Launch, 16 November 2022
- ^ "National Register Information System – (#99001642)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- ^ Barker, Nathan; Gebhardt, Chris (2022-03-17). "NASA moon rocket SLS rolls out to "rebuilt" LC-39B ahead of Artemis 1 rehearsal". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 2022-03-18.
- ^ a b c NASA (1999). "Vehicle Assembly Building". NASA. Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
- ^ PR Newswire Association LLC (2007). "Groundbreaking Digital Experience for Endeavour Shuttle Launch". PR Newswire Association LLC. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
- ^ Taylor, George (20 September 1988). "NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, Cape Canaveral, FL". George Lansing Taylor Collection Main Gallery. University of North Florida. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
- ^ "The Many Stories of the VAB". NASA. January 10, 2020. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
- ^ "VAB Nears Completion". NASA History Program Office. NASA. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
The new name, it was felt, would more readily encompass future as well as current programs and would not be tied to the Saturn booster.
- ^ America's Spaceport (PDF). NASA. p. 13.
- ^ United States Columbia Accident Investigation Board (August 2003). Columbia Accident Investigation Board, Report Vol. 1. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-16-067904-9.
- ^ "Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC Designated as National Civil Engineering Landmark". Florida Today. January 10, 2020. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
- ^ "Vehicle Assembly Building Prepared for Future". 24 March 2015.
- ^ "Vehicle Assembly Building" (PDF). NASA.
- ^ Marquardt, Sarah. "An Exclusive Look Inside The Secretive Building Where NASA Makes Rockets". futurism.com. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
- ^ "Vehicle Assembly Building Fact Sheet" (PDF). NASA. NASA. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
... each with a door 456 feet (138.99 m)˜ high. The doors are the largest in the world
- ^ Cardona, Carolina (3 July 2019). "Inside the VAB at Kennedy Space Center". WKMG. Graham Media Group. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
- ^ "NASA Vehicle Assembly Building's Huge American Flag Flies Again". Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- ^ a b Mansfield, Cheryl L. (11 January 2007). "Restoring Old Glory and a Massive Meatball". NASA. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
- ^ "Frances tears panels from NASA shuttle hangar". CNN. September 6, 2004. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
- ^ Rocket Renovations Will End Public Tours of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building
- ^ NASA FY13 Budget
- ^ NASA Solicits Proposals for Use of Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 2
- ^ Grinter, Kay (2016-04-18). "NASA Selects Orbital ATK to Begin Negotiations". Retrieved 2016-06-29.
- ^ "Apollo to OmegA: NASA signs over legacy launcher for new rocket". collectspace.com. 16 August 2019. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
- ^ "OmegA Launch Tower to be demolished as KSC 39B fails to become a multi-user pad". nasaspaceflight.con.com. 11 September 2020. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
- Apollo program
- Artemis program
- Buildings and structures in Merritt Island, Florida
- Kennedy Space Center
- National Register of Historic Places in Brevard County, Florida
- Space Shuttle program
- Buildings and structures completed in 1966
- Cubic buildings
- 1966 establishments in Florida
- Integration facilities
- Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks