Warbirds and Airshows
By David D Jackson

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  Historic Site
Cape Canaveral Air Station,
Cape Canaveral, FL - July 18, 2012
Cape Canaveral Air Station began in 1949 as the east coast test facility for military rockets and missiles and was the launch site for many historic American missile launches and test programs. These included but were not limited to Explorer, Snark, Polaris, Mercury, Gemini and several Apollo launches before the Apollo program transferred to the NASA Kennedy Space Center on nearby Merritt Island. While the NASA site is a high profile government sponsored tourist destination the Cape Canaveral Air Station is the real deal and a must see for anyone interested or remembering the early space program.  Early historic launches were made in the 1950s and 1960s from here that later allowed NASA put the Space Shuttles into orbit.  The Air Station, while being under control of the US Air Force, also was and still is being used by both the US Army and US Navy to test out new rockets and missiles.  New to use the launch areas at the Air Station are the new privately owned space launch companies, one of which has offices next door to the visitor center where the tour starts .  Free public tours (NASA tours are not free) offered of the Air Station provided by the Air Force Space and Missile Museum just opened to the public in early 2012, and for the space enthusiast or someone just interested in the early US space program, this is a must tour to take.

The tour itself takes 3.5 hours and covers most of the old launch sites including where Alan Sheppard took off from for the first US manned space flight to the tragic location where Apollo 1 crew Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee were killed.  The tour begins at the visitor center just outside the main gate to the Air Station and makes many stops, including the one below I have featured, Complex 26 where Explorer One, America's first satellite into space, was launched on January 31, 1958.


The Blockhouse for Complex 26 and the launch center of Explorer 1.


Note that while this is an Air Force installation the first US satellite into space and the Jupiter rocket that put it there was provided by the US Army.  This is because after WWII all three services had their own rocket and missile programs and the US Army had the most powerful rocket at the time.


Inside the blockhouse.  Burroughs was one of many companies in the 1950's and 1960's that produced main frame computers.  This particular unit was a 6400 byte machine and is an excellent example of state of the art technology at the time.


This is the main processing unit for the Burroughs Missile Guidance Computer which takes up entire wall inside the blockhouse.


Back in the computer dark ages there was punched paper tape for both inputting the program and printing out data.  That took place on a punched tape processor that also occupied a good part of a wall.

 


Here it looks like the output could either be printed to the paper tape or an electric typewriter.


The computer operators console and its blinking lights are very similar to the ones on Mr. Sulu's console in "Star Trek".  But in "Star Trek" the actors had "flip phone" type hand communicators for communication similar to today's cell phones while the operator of this 1958 leading edge technology had to rely on old fashioned dial phones.


Instrumentation racks for monitoring the missile sitting outside on the launch pad.  Note that there are lots of ten turn potentiometers, analog gauges, dials power supplies and two small diameter oscilloscopes.


More missile instrumentation. 


A front on view of the racks. 


More of the "Star Trek" blinking lights and down at the bottom on the right and left are two breadboard type programming boards.


This is labeled as a sequencer.  I have to assume changing location of the wires changed the order in which something happened.


Another control console.


More instrumentation.  Note the two sets of windows that allowed visual observation of the launch pad and launch.  The windows are actually made up of multiple panes of impact resistant glass.  If I remember correctly it is either 19 panes of glass or 19 inches thick as the number 19 is stuck in my memory from what the tour guide said about the glass.


This scale was not for the operators to weigh themselves on unless they had ballooned up to the size of a missile, as this actually weighed the missile on the launch pad outside.  By determining the weight on the launch pad the operators could tell when it had enough fuel. Note the one window.


Looking back at the two sets of windows where the instrumentation is and the one window where the scale is located.


Here I have turned around and and looking at the launch pad.  Note the metal covered concrete channel that goes all of the way out to the launch pad.  This carried all of the wiring that ran back and forth between the blockhouse and the pad.  This was long before the advanced digital communication protocols that today allows us to send complex messages down a thin fiber optic cable.  This was all analog communication and required one wire for each bit of information transferred.  In other words, there was a lot of wiring in the channel.


It was from Pad A right here that the United States made a belated entry into the Space Race on January 31, 1958.




A replica of the Explorer Satellite.  Neither it nor the Russian Sputnik were very large due to the small size of the missiles in 1958.  While Sputnik was a spherical satellite there was no need to orient it in space.  However, with the Explorer being cylindrical in shape it had to be spinning like a bullet coming out a rifle barrel to stabilize it in flight.  Therefore if you see old films of this launch you will see it being spun up while on the launch pad previous to being sent into space.

Plan your trip now:
Air Force Space and Missile Museum

Bastogne, Belgium    Battleground, IN   Book Depository, Dallas, TX    Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL   Fallen Timbers, OH   Harpers Ferry, WV   Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, LA   Jesse Owens Memorial, AL   LBJ Ranch, TX   Luxembourg American Cemetery    Normandy, France   Oklahoma City National Memorial, OK   Wendover Air Field, UT   Wilbur Wright Birthplace, IN
 

 


 
Home  Indiana Museums   The Beginning    Revisions   First Flight of P-38F Glacier Girl  
USS Theodore Roosevelt    WWII Aircraft Manufacturing Sites    Gateguards
 2007 Airshows   2008 Airshows  22009 Airshows   2010 Airshows    2011 Airshows    2012 Airshows   2013 Airshows   2014 Airshows
Aviation Museums of the Pacific Northwest
   Display Helicopter Locations   CAL FIRE   PV-2 Harpoon Photos     F6F Hellcat Photos
   Warbird Sightings   WWII US Air-Air Victories   Guest Photos    Indiana Warbirds   Featured Photos  Other Items   Links

Historic Sites   Historic Forts   Historic Texas Independence Sites   Pre-Historic Sites   Historic Manhattan Project Sites   GM Heritage Center


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