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  Apollo Firing Room consoles and layout

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Author Topic:   Apollo Firing Room consoles and layout
ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-24-2010 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I came across some Technicolor footage of Firing Room 1 during the Apollo 8 countdown. Does anyone know if this is on the Spacecraft Films Apollo 8 DVD?

I am excited to see that a control panel in my collection is shown in several of the clips, but I don't really want to shell out $88 apiece for 11-second film clips!

BA002
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From: Utrecht,NL
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posted 11-24-2010 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BA002   Click Here to Email BA002     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just checked my copy but unfortunately I can't find any Launch Control room footage.

Does it have to be Apollo 8? For instance, I'm currently working my way through the Apollo 14 disks and there is some footage from the countdown demonstration test and the actual launch, though not in as much detail as some of the Footagevault's clips.

onesmallstep
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From: Staten Island, New York USA
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posted 11-24-2010 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I once toured the Saturn V Center at KSC shortly after it opened, and was impressed with the re-creation of the Firing Room as it looked during the countdown and launch of the same Apollo 8 mission depicted in the vintage movie scenes. Sadly, the audiovisual system broke down half-way through the presentation, so I have always made it a point to go back and see it again one day..

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-24-2010 03:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It doesn't have to be Apollo 8 - any footage of the Apollo Firing Rooms in action is wonderful to see.

I feel very fortunate to have found a shot of my particular panel "in action" in Firing Room 1 during an actual launch. Close-up comparison of the two photos show that although they're the same "station," they're not the identical piece of equipment. Mine was from one of the secondary Firing Rooms. With this context footage, I'll be able to light up my panel appropriately when I get around to restoring it.

The S-IC Engine Panel during the Apollo 8 countdown:

The panel in my collection:

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 11-24-2010 04:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The one bit that could improve the KSC firing room experience at the Saturn V center would be if they were to find some way to set up the launch control center shuttered windows with a projection of what a Saturn V might look like out those windows. That way, you see the launch on the monitors, then notice a yellow glow above you as you turn around to see a Saturn ascending behind you and doing the roll pitch manuever.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-24-2010 09:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was able to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Apollo 8 exhibit earlier this year, based on my collection of Apollo launch control panels. I photographed every console in the room!

Surprisingly, many of the consoles in the exhibit are left over from the Skylab/ASTP missions. In many cases, they appear to be Saturn V consoles that were later re-purposed during Skylab and ASTP, inasmuch as they are labelled for the S-IB. There are very few S-IC and almost no S-II panels in the exhibit.

Once you get up close and personal to the displays in the Apollo 8 exhibit, you see that they are placed in the room in random order. In the actual Firing Rooms, the panels were clustered by function (e.g., first stage electrical systems panels together, booster systems panels together, etc.). In the Apollo 8 exhibit, you might have an S-IB panel at the same console as an S-IVB panel. It looks nice from the audience's point of view, but it's not the actual Firing Room, unfortunately.

If folks are interested, I can post the photos and the exhibit "map" online.

NJSPACEFAN
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From: Princeton, NJ, USA
Registered: Dec 2000

posted 11-24-2010 10:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJSPACEFAN   Click Here to Email NJSPACEFAN     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That would be great - please do post the map online!

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-25-2010 09:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK - I have put up a quick and dirty website that has the map of the Firing Room exhibit and photos of all the panels in the KSC Apollo 8 Firing Room exhibit.

To give some context, the Firing Room exhibit consists of two rows of vertical equipment racks at the back of the room, and four rows of desk consoles, the closest to the audience being on a slightly raised floor.

The "map" is a converted Excel spreadsheet with back of the room at the top of the sheet. Each rack or console position is marked with an arbitrary number that I assigned for keeping track of things (e.g., DCR04/05 is desk console row 4, position 5). Most of the consoles had at least one panel in them, so I gave the panel name and function. There is a hyperlink to a photo of each console. I also made some quick notes for some of the panels. The photos are the original size, full resolution, so you can read each indicator on every panel.

It appears that the original 28V aircraft lamps that lighted the panels were replaced by LEDs (much better lamp life and less power needed). I noticed (and photographed) the modern control circuitry on the backs of some of the panels to run the show. There were also two subwoofers hidden from audience view in the back row of cabinets. I imagine those were not needed in the original Firing Room!

A quick comparison to photos of the original Firing Room will tell you that this exhibit is less than half the size of the Real Deal. However, it does a great job of recreating the feel of the place. All it's missing is a cloud of cigarette smoke.

Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving -
Jonathan

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-25-2010 06:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Also, this drawing shows the actual layout of the Firing Rooms during the Apollo era. You can readily see that there was a LOT more equipment on the floor in the Firing Rooms than is in the Apollo 8 exhibit at the Saturn V Center.

413 is in
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From: Alexandria, VA USA
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posted 11-26-2010 12:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 413 is in   Click Here to Email 413 is in     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great work, Jonathan!

NJSPACEFAN
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From: Princeton, NJ, USA
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posted 11-26-2010 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJSPACEFAN   Click Here to Email NJSPACEFAN     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Absolutely phenomenal!!!

413 is in
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From: Alexandria, VA USA
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posted 11-26-2010 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 413 is in   Click Here to Email 413 is in     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

I've got all these stinking badges and I still can't gain access to the firing room! You're one lucky dog, Jonathan.

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-26-2010 10:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If any skilled cabinetmakers have time on their hands, I took the measurements of the consoles, too...

413 is in
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From: Alexandria, VA USA
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posted 11-27-2010 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 413 is in   Click Here to Email 413 is in     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jonathan, there's a fair amount of Firing Room footage included on the Spacecraft Films Apollo 12 set that might be of interest to you. There's some random footage taken during the CDDT and then again during Nixon's post-launch visit to the FR.

Just let me know, if you would like to borrow my copy.

BA002
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From: Utrecht,NL
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posted 11-28-2010 09:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BA002   Click Here to Email BA002     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lucky you, Jonathan, but thanks for sharing! The more I see of the actual hardware the more it amazes me that Apollo worked at all, considering that to us most things look rather old-fashioned to say the least. And amazing too that with our current state-of -the-art we have lost this manned lunar capability...

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-28-2010 12:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I scan the photos of the old Firing Rooms, and look at just one panel in my hands with dozens of lamps and switches, it amazes me to think that each one of those lights and switches was hard wired to the computer center. Multiply those dozens of connections per panel by hundreds of panels by three Firing Rooms by all the support buildings and sites...and realize that it was all conceived, designed, and built within a handful of years. It's almost too much to comprehend.

Sometimes I feel that Apollo worked through "brute force" - when money is no object, you can throw all the bodies (and minds) at a problem and solve it. The Apollo program reminds me of the great Pyramids of ancient Egypt. The Giza Pyramids are still the largest masonry buildings in the world, 5000 years after they were built. We'd be hard-pressed to build something on the scale of either accomplishment these days.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 12-14-2010 02:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have gone through my photos of the FR exhibit and extracted a close-up photo of every panel in this exhibit.

As I suspected, the vast majority are configured for Skylab-ASTP rather than for the Apollo missions. There was one control panel dedicated to the S-IC, three for the S-II, and one for the OWS (Orbital Workshop = Skylab). There are ten S-IVB panels, which would have been applicable to either the Saturn V or the Saturn IB. On the other hand, there are nine S-IB panels. Some panels appear to have been repurposed from Saturn V to Saturn IB, because they have banks of indicators for both the S-IB and S-IVB stages with a blank column of indicators between the two.

I'll be cataloging these in more detail, noting the functions carried out by each panel. I intend to put my research up on a better-indexed website than the placeholder I have up at the moment.

Lou Chinal
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From: Staten Island, NY
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posted 12-14-2010 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jonathan, Bill - I'm amazed at all the hard work you guys put into this. I imagine 5000 thousand years from now, when they find a LM on the moon. They will absolutely to the conclusion we couldn't have done it.

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 12-31-2010 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a New Year's present for you: I took a filmed pan of the Firing Room during the Apollo 8 Countdown Demonstration Test from the Footagevault.com film clips, and turned it into a monster panoramic still of the activity in the S-IC and S-II row of the Firing Room. Warning - the file is 10000x1700 pixels and about 1.5 megs.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!!
Jonathan

Joel Katzowitz
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From: Marietta GA USA
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posted 01-01-2011 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joel Katzowitz   Click Here to Email Joel Katzowitz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice work Jonathon.

I'm going to print out your panorama full size, get about 30 of my friends and relatives, and run my own CDDT.

Happy Healthy New Year!!!

David Carey
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posted 01-01-2011 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great panorama Jonathan. Thanks for sharing all of your panels work and research here, including the March thread in HW&Flown. My one panel is related to the ATM (Apollo Telescope Mount) of Skylab, so another data point on what I believe to be a common source for these assemblies. I'd love to get mine wired up - the lamps work fine - but as you say, all those brute force cables! Need to find the time to build a mating Cannon adapter so as not to mess with original cabling. Perhaps you know already but might there not have been multiplexing at the console level? I've never had the benefit of a system diagram for Launch Control to know one way or the other of direct-wire versus switched signaling.

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 01-01-2011 08:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, David. I have never seen a Skylab ATM control panel before - can you send me a picture of the face of it offline? I'm cataloging as many of the control panels as I can find.

As far as I know, all the multiplexing was done in the computer rooms at the LCC. Each FR had its own dedicated computer room. There was a Master Terminal Room located between the FR3 and FR4 computer rooms. All of the cabling to the Firing Rooms entered the LCC at the Master Terminal Room. It was also in the Master Terminal Room where the switchover from the Firing Rooms and the Mobile Launcher computers was made.

In case you hadn't seen it, there's a brief description of the Saturn V computer complex in this document.

David Carey
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posted 01-02-2011 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Will do Jonathan; my collection is at the office and I am not, so it'll be a day or two.

Without a doubt, that's a lot of cabling and to some extent the whole human-intensive approach to manning the consoles seems silly when considered in against more modern safety and operations automation. On the other hand, the direct-wire nature of the old LCC firing rooms does give you some simplicity. When the S1C gaseous nitrogen purge line valve #3 (or whatever) showed an error you knew exactly how to trace the signaling. Similarly, there were few questions about who was responsible for issues I suppose; if your light(s) went on it was your problem to address.

Anyway it all worked in the end, "brutality" and all

Russ Still
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From: Atlanta, GA USA
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posted 01-02-2011 01:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russ Still   Click Here to Email Russ Still     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jonathon - absolutely excellent!!! Thanks for your work on this. And 413, I'm drooling over your complete set of Permanent Firing Room badges!

Jim Behling
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From: Cape Canaveral, FL
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posted 06-17-2013 10:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing that gets overlooked is that the Apollo spacecraft was controlled and monitored from the MSOB and not the LC-39 LCC. Does anybody have the control room (ACE) layouts in the MSOB?

ilbasso
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Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 06-18-2013 06:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jim, I have not seen any layouts or even a listing of the type of controls that were in the MSOB. It's one of the research targets for the book that I'm currently writing about launch operations at KSC during Apollo.

There was also a lot of monitoring equipment in the CIF (Central Instrumentation Facility).

All times are CT (US)

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