Demolition Of Space Launch Complex 41
Kennedy Space Center Cape Canaveral, Florida

By Jared Redyke, Brent Blanchard and Michael Taylor

(Originally published in The Journal of Explosives Engineering and Demolition Magazine)


Thursday, October 14, 1999 marked another important milestone for America’s space program.

At exactly 10:05 AM EDT on a sunny Florida morning, Dykon, Inc. of Tulsa, Oklahoma detonated approximately 300 pounds of explosives to fell the seven million pound Umbilical and Mobile Service Towers at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at NASA’s Cape Canaveral Air Station.
THE HISTORY
Completed in 1965 at the height of the 'space race' to the moon, the Mobile Service and Umbilical Towers (MST/UT) were part of the Titan rocket launch facilities. The MST stood 265 feet tall and weighed over five million pounds. The UT topped out at 175 feet and weighed over 2 million pounds.
Initial construction of SLC-41 began in April of 1965 with 6.5 million cubic yards of landfill dredged from the nearby Banana River. The U.S. Air Force accepted the launch site on December 12, 1965, and first used the facility to launch an Air Force Titan-III-C rocket on December 15, 1965.
Over the next 34 years, the pad would serve as a starting point for some of the most historic events in the nation’s space program. NASA’s Viking 1 and 2 Mars Pathfinder missions were launched from the site in 1975. In 1977, the world's first deep space probes, Voyager 1 and 2 – which are still winging their way through the galaxy today – were launched from SLC-41.
Titan III 8
carrying IDCSP satellites
August 26, 1966
Viking 2
September 9, 1975
Voyager 1
September 5, 1977
In 1986, the complex underwent a $57 million renovation project in preparation for the Air Force’s Titan IV rocket program. On June 14, 1989, the first Titan IV was launched from the site. Ten years later, after hosting some 26 additional launches, the complex saw its final liftoff of an Air Force Titan IVB rocket on April 9, 1999.

To understand the nature of SLC-41, it helps to visualize a massive Titan IV rocket. These space transportation vehicles are 112 feet high, 10 feet in diameter, weigh some 1.9 million pounds and can generate 1.4 million pounds of thrust at launch. The Titan IV B/Centaur, an upgrade, is capable of placing payloads weighing more than 12,000 pounds into geosynchronous orbit 22,000 miles above the earth. Even greater weight payloads can be placed in low-earth or polar orbits by the Titan IV.

Eventually, the evolutionary nature of modern technology rendered the Titan system obsolete, and the Air Force contracted with Lockheed Martin to develop a new system known as the Atlas V. Lockheed engineers were charged with designing and building both the Atlas Launch Vehicles and their new launch platform.

The first phase of this switchover called for removing the old towers so that new launch towers could be constructed.
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