How It Works

NASA’S rocket hub

Take a look inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, where spacecraft prepare for liftoff

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The Saturn V rocket was built with the intention of sending humans to the Moon, and became successful in doing so when launching several of the historic Apollo missions into space. At 111 metres tall, it set a record at the time for being the largest rocket ever made. In order to successful­ly prepare and assemble such a huge engine, NASA decided to create a suitably sized building that could safely house and assemble spacecraft and their premanufac­tured modules. Constructi­on started in 1963, and the building was completed in 1966.

To store many heavy rockets and other substantia­l spacecraft components in one place, the building needs to be strong. To support the structure, there are huge steel posts placed every six metres along the base. These reach down over 50 metres into the solid limestone rock below. Also, the heavy floors are made of 30 centimetre­s of reinforced concrete for added support.

Since its constructi­on, NASA’S Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) has become America’s prime location for assembling and housing rockets before takeoff. A rocket will take shape in the tallest sections of the building, its components carried by vehicles and by cranes. Surroundin­g the rocket, platforms are built to enable workers to stand close and analyse it from a variety of heights. When the big day arrives, having been inspected and reviewed inside the VAB, the spacecraft will undertake a six-hour journey as it is transporte­d from the building to the launch pad.

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The tallest section of the building is the high bay. Being 160 metres in height is necessary to allow rockets to be stored and moved in a vertical position. There are four high bays, two on the east and west sides of the building.
High bay The tallest section of the building is the high bay. Being 160 metres in height is necessary to allow rockets to be stored and moved in a vertical position. There are four high bays, two on the east and west sides of the building.

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