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Author Topic:   Florida, corrosion and outdoor spacecraft

Posts: 1394
From: Guyton, GA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 07-05-2009 10:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We have seen a number of historic launch towers on the Florida coast destroyed due to corrosion. Not directly, but the towers of Complex 34, 13, 14 the Apollo LUT all were taken down due to the amount of corrosion and the fact they became unsafe. This area is considered an adverse environment for structures such as these because of corrosion, so much so that NASA has a corrosion test area situated between Pad 39A and Complex 37 on the beach (I saw the sign for the test are while on the Then & Now Tour at KSC. This led our engineer group to use it for an evaluation of one of our assemblies).

So what does this have to do with this group of spaceflight enthusiasts? There are a number of artifacts that are stored outside in this environment due to their size. The ones that come to mind immediately are those vehicles/assemblies in the Kennedy Space Center rocket park. The Apollo LUT swing arm and the Saturn 1B are the two items that are just not replaceable. The other spacecraft in the Rocket Park have counter parts in other museums but are also examples of our space history.

If it was up to me I would move the Apollo LUT swing arm that is currently in the Rocket Park at KSC, to the Saturn V building and get in out of the elements. That piece of history is currently corroding away just like the Saturn 1B beside it (see the photos below). A building could then be built around the Saturn 1B much like was done to the Saturn V at JSC for restoration. This building could be built to sufficient size to house other large artifacts and get them out of the weather. The Saturn 1B could be restored and saved before it comes apart at its corroded seems.

Another area of concern is at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral. There are a number of historic vehicles that are in dire need of restoration and the preservation. These spacecraft are sitting in this wet salt environment and are literally rotting away. Below is a photo of a Hound Dog missile, there are plants growing in the edges of the wing/fuselage attach areas as well as mold all over it. The part that is of greatest concern is a six inch diameter area where the exfoliation corrosion has produced a hole in the wing. I expect to go there and see the wing on the ground sometime. The Complex 19 Clean Room from the Gemini launches is stored there but it also has large areas of corrosion and if left unattended will become too difficult to salvage.

The bottom line is, it is very difficult to preserve and display large space items in the Florida coast environment. There needs to be a plan to put these items either in an existing display building or build new ones. If this does not happen, these items will suffer the same end as the Apollo LUT #1 and end up in a landfill somewhere lost to generations to come.


Posts: 1394
From: Guyton, GA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 07-05-2009 10:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-05-2009 11:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rather illustrative of why the nation's "Boneyards" are located in the Southwest. If to cost prohibitive to fabricate environmentally isolated enclosures, would be better even on an interim basis to relocate these artifacts to Davis Monthan or Edwards until the appropriate facilities are available at KSC.


Posts: 89
From: Merritt Island, FL
Registered: Feb 2008

posted 07-07-2009 05:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for AFGAS   Click Here to Email AFGAS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have seen some of the original plans for the Apollo/Saturn V Center that has the crew access arm in place there on the the LUT portion already displayed. The idea for a second story catwalk that ran the length of the booster was cut for budget reasons, but would have terminated with a walk across the LUT and out the extended arm to a (supposed) Apollo capsule mockup.


Posts: 22
From: Port Salerno, FL, USA
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 07-08-2009 02:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Darron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a topic of great interest to me because my old chemistry professor at Florida Tech (then F.I.T.) was Dr. John Gross who was a lead corrosion engineer for NASA from Mercury thru Apollo. Since nowadays I make my living combating corrosion in the Florida recreational boating market, hardly a day goes by that I don't remember something good ol' Doc Gross taught me. He retired from NASA to teach at F.I.T. for about six years; before 'retiring' again to run a Radio Shack store in Stuart, FL for about ten years before 'retiring' again to be involved in some sort of farming operation in northern Florida until his passing about ten years ago.... An all-around great guy and one of my heroes and mentors!

Of course for any active launch complexes, there is an ongoing program of passive (coating) and active (cathodic) corrosion protection-- but once they became inactive, there was no budget to preserve them and ultimately they were dismantled. Preservation of the items mentioned is of course a question of budget and funding. I believe Delaware North, keeper of the Rocket Garden, does have a preservation program in place- as they did rebuild/restore the Rocket Garden about ten years ago; but their budget may not allow immediate response to ongoing problems-- and the same is probably true for the Air Force Museum on CCAFS.

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