The Big Picture
Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is getting a makeover. After launching missions for the Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs, Pad 39B has been upgraded and modified in preparation for NASA's Space Launch System (opens in new tab) (SLS) and the Orion crew capsule (opens in new tab).
The modernized pad will support the launch of Artemis 1 (formerly known as Exploration Mission 1 (opens in new tab)), the first uncrewed test flight of the SLS and Orion, currently scheduled for 2021. Built for versatility, it will also be able to support commercial launch providers. Click through this gallery to see Pad 39B's new look!
A Blast of Water
On Oct. 15, 2018, NASA successfully tested a water-deluge system at Pad 39B that will reduce the extreme heat generated by launches of the agency's in-development Space Launch System rocket. The so-called "Ignition Overpressure Protection and Sound Suppression" system can spew nearly half a million gallons of water up to 100 feet (30 meters) into the air above the launch pad.
Testing the Waters
During a flow test of the new water deluge system on Oct. 15, 2018, about 450,000 gallons of water was blasted from a holding tank, soaking the flame trench, flame deflector nozzles and mobile launcher interface risers.
Here It Comes
During the test, water erupted into the air like a geyser. But this won't be the case during an actual rocket launch. When the mobile launch tower is in place on the pad for a rocket launch, that water will flow through pipes inside the structure and flow out of the nozzles.
Launch Pad 39b, Refurbished
Here's what the launch platform looks like when it's not being drenched by the Ignition Overpressure Protection and Sound Suppression water deluge system.
The Water Tower
The water tower at Pad 39B was not replaced, but workers sandblasted the structure during the renovations to make it look as good as new.
Water to the Rescue
NASA conducted another test of the water deluge system at Launch Complex 39B on May 24, 2018. "The high-speed water flow will help protect the vehicle from the extreme acoustic and temperature environment during ignition and liftoff," NASA officials said in a description of the test.
Displaying Updated Facilities
In this view from inside the flame trench at Pad 39B, you can see the new flame deflector. NASA refurbished the trench by installing new heat-resistant bricks in the walls.
A close-up view of the flame deflector inside the trench at Pad 39B. This wall helps to direct a rocket's fiery exhaust into the flame trench.
The upgraded flame trench and flame deflectors at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B look as good as new in this photo taken on July 26, 2018.
Crawler-transporter 2 arrives at Pad 39B for a fit check on May 22, 2018. The test drive allowed NASA to confirm that recent modifications to the crawler and Pad 39B will be able to support the launch of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on Exploration Mission-1.
Support hardware for the new flame trench at Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39B are lowered into place in this photo taken during ongoing renovations in July 2017.
Construction workers work to remove the flame trench deflector that sits below and between the crawlerway tracks during renovations at Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39B in 2013.
Construction workers are repairing the concrete surface and catacomb roof below Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida during renovations in 2013.
Get Where You're Going
Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, elevator buttons display just how large the facility is.