Photos/Video from the new Up-Close launch pad tour at the Kennedy Space Center


A new up-close launch pad tour at Kennedy Space Center takes you within the restricted perimeter fence of pad 39A. This is where Apollo rockets and space shuttles were launched. Here is a view of the top of the Rotating Service Service Structure which was used to hold and deliver the payload into the shuttle orbiter.

The Rotating Service Structure (RSS) is at the left. The launch pad is just below center of the photo. The RSS pivoted around the main tower to the launch pad.

Note the regular-size access doors at the bottom.

In the center of this photo is the room that astronauts passed through to enter the orbiter’s hatch. The room is on an arm that rotated away from the orbiter after all of the astronauts had boarded. The arm is rotated away here, and the passageway for the hatch is covered.

The yellow arrow points to the vent hood or “beanie” that was on top of the external tank. The beanie was rotated away to this position about three minutes before launch.

Another view of the beanie. The beanie vented oxygen from the external tank and prevented ice from building up up on the top of the tank.

This extension from the main tower holds the Hydrogen tank umbilical. The umbilical instantly released on first motion of the launch, and fell down securely to the position seen here. You can see the umbilical in a vertical line at center here.The pivot is at the top.

Another view of this tower extension.

You can see pad 39B from pad 39A. 39B is now surrounded by three lightning protection towers. 39B was once identical to 39A, but the pad was cleared to make it multiple-purpose. All that remains of the former shuttle launch structure is the fueling system, seen here at center of the horizon. The current plan is for a rocket launche from 39B in late 2017. The new SLS rocket is in development.

The water tower at 39B is currently being refurbished.

Refurbishment is also in progress here at pad 39A.

The opposite side of the launch pad.

The arrow points to the cab where an operator moved the Rotating Service Structure.

A look at where the operator moved the Rotating Service Structure forward and back.

Here’s a video from KSC Up-Close: The Launch Pad Tour:

KSC Up-Close: The Launch Pad Tour at NASA's Kennedy Space Center

Seen in the background in the video is a controlled brush fire. The fire made some dramatic photos, but was not a danger to the Space Center.

A wide shot from the base of the incline up to the pad.

KSC Up-Close: The Launch Pad Tour has limited availability. It is currently offered through 2012. The tour is $25 for adults and $19 for children ages 3-11, in addition to Kennedy Scape Center Visitor Complex admission. Click Here for more information.


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Jud July 30, 2012 - 2:01 pm

So… judging by your video and long lens shots, you are still a ways off from the actual pad, no?

Don Gworek July 30, 2012 - 7:33 pm

The point where you get off the bus is the closest the tour gets to the raised launch area, and it looks like about 1,000 feet away in Google Maps. Go here to see the location:


At about 4 o’clock at the inner perimeter road you will see a tilted rectangle of roads. The bus stops on the west side of that rectangle, and you can walk up to the road at the north of the rectangle.

I agree that it would be a better tour if the bus went up the ramp, but it’s probably not possible for many reasons.

A reason could be that the roadways on the incline do not have a guard rail. Another reason could be the logistics in the event a bus breaks down up there.

There probably is not much to see from the bus windows up there too. Everything would be overhead, way overhead, way out of view.

It’s still a pretty good deal for the additional $25. You’re inside the perimeter fence, a place that few people have been for 30 years or more.

Jud July 30, 2012 - 8:23 pm

Thanks Don. But I want to touch it! 🙂

Jud July 30, 2012 - 8:24 pm

PS, I have touched a crawler, and wondered freely inside the VAB. Back in 76… it was so awesome!


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