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Launching astronauts: 50 years of electronic checkout and launch systems at the Kennedy Space Center

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1 Author(s)
Starr, S. ; NASA, Kennedy Space Center, FL

When NASA was created in 1958 one of the elements incorporated into this new agency was the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in Huntsville, Alabama and its subordinate Missile Firing Laboratory (MFL) in Cape Canaveral. Under NASA, the MFL became the Launch Operations Directorate of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, but expanding operations in the build-up to Apollo dictated that it be given the status of a full-fledged center in July, 1962 [1]. The next year it was renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) after the president whose vision transformed its first decade of operation. The ABMA was under the technical leadership of Dr. Wernher von Braun. The MFL was run by his deputy Dr. Kurt Dehus, an electrical engineer whose experience in the field began in the early days of V-2 testing in war-time Germany. In 1952, a group led by Dehus arrived in Cape Canaveral to begin, test launches of the new Redstone missile [2]. During the 1950s, the MFL built several launch complexes and tested the Redstone, Jupiter, and Jupiter C missiles. This small experienced team of engineers and technicians formed the seed from which has grown the KSC team of today. This briefly reviews the evolution, successes, and setbacks of KSC electronic technologies for integration, checkout, and launch of space vehicles and payloads. We show that this very successful technology development was driven by greater vehicle complexity and heavily influenced and constrained by the commercial state-of-the-art in electronics.

Published in:

Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:23 ,  Issue: 10 )