NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building Upgraded

NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building or “VAB” is one of the largest structures in the world. The building is 526 feet tall, 716 feet long and 518 feet wide. All total, the building covers some eight acres. Photo Credit Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studio

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — NASA has decided that it is past time that the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida was rennovated for the needs of the future. As such the iconic building is being updated to meet the needs of the future. A tour of the structure highlighted what is taking place to meet these needs.

“After more than 45 years of use, it was time to clear out and update the garage,” said Jose Lopez, NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building senior project manager in the Vehicle Integration & Launch Support Branch of Ground Systems Development & Operations., (GSDO).

Work platforms retracted so that the shuttle can be moved out of the VAB.
Photo Credit Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studio

Dating back to the mid-60s the VAB was constructed to support stacking of the Apollo Saturn V Moon rockets. Then in the late 70s, the facility was refurbished to accommodate the space shuttle. After three decades of flight, the space shuttle program ended in 2011 and with it a new series of modifications awaited the KSC landmark.

All the white shuttle work platforms seen here will be removed. Other, more modular structures will be put in their place to accomodate a variety of launch vehicles Photo Credit Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studio

To support the next generation of space flight, all of the space shuttle work platforms are being removed from High Bay 3 to make way for a multi-use system that will support a variety of launch vehicles. The original units were designed as retractable platforms coming within inches of the shuttle when an orbiter was in place. As such, they are not compatible with any other system. After the units are removed from the VAB they will be disassembled on site – and sold for scrap.

“If a private sector company wants to renovate another high bay that total coast would fall on them as there are no federal dollars available to do the work,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, himself a former astronaut.

NASA is refurbishing much of the existing structures at KSC to be used either on the space agency’s new heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System or SLS or with NASA’s commercial space efforts. NASA is hoping that by empowering private companies to provide access to destinations in low-Earth-orbit that it will be freed up to explore points beyond the orbit of Earth.

In this image one can see one section of the huge work platforms outside of the VAB. To the left is the old Constellation Mobile Launch Tower that is also being retrofitted for use on NASA’s Space Launch System. Photo Credit Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studio.


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