Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part II–Launch Complex 41

After arriving in Florida the NASA Tweetup people headed over to Kennedy Space Center to do round the room introductions. It was interesting hearing everyone introduce themselves providing information on where they came from, profession and a little bit about themselves. A strange lady from England had a strange fascination with Hummers, for she commented on how big they are here in the United States of America. Another fellow from Atlanta, Georgia seemed a bit afraid of jellyfish as he warned us to be careful of them if we swam in the ocean. Quit odd as that had nothing to do with himself.

After the introductions all of the camera wielding, smart phone carriers climbed into2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 026 numerous busses scheduled to drive us around to various sites at the facilities. Due to safety each of the busses were to go to the same locations at different times. I guess I now know that NASA feels it’s a risk to allow 50 tweeters to get maimed or killed but not 100 or 150. At the first stop the previous group was still getting their full of Launch Complex 41. You may have heard about Launch Complex 41 as it was the site for the last NASA rocket launch to Jupiter called Juno. Actually I doubt you heard about that unless you are a die hard NASA nerd. It seems like news is a bit watered down, in that we only get limited information in most cases for NASA launches. In that it’s usually a short video of the launch with the announcer saying “NASA launched a rocket {insert time of day (night, morning, afternoon, evening} to the {insert location} to {insert line from NASA press release saying the major part of the mission}. Definitely not enough to obtain meaningful information. I guess that’s why I kept hearing people say they run into people who think NASA is no longer launching missions.

Today Launch 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 027complex 41 mainly launches Altas rockets produced by the United Launch Alliance (ULA). The rockets are assembled in the building way in the background of the picture (left). Once assembled and tested the rocket is conveyed from the building to the launch pad using a double set of railroad tracks. Once to to the Launch pad the rocket is further prepped for the mission. The ULA representative gave a long speech on how everything works, unfortunately for you I didn’t take notes so I can’t convey everything he said. Luckily for you ULA has a website that provides a bunch of the same information he talked about.


I’ve got to say during my stay I found that Kennedy Space Center really isn’t an ideal 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 019place to launch rockets from a weather standpoint. There always seemed to be clouds in the sky and often lightning storms. To prevent or limit the number of lightning strikes to rockets, NASA has hired contractors to install faraday cages around the launch pads to reduce the likely hood of strikes. Each of the towers in the picture are connected by a grid of wires to create the cage. The rocket then launches in from the center of the cage.

2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 030

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