ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?!!!!
This is what I used to do for a living. I was the
guy out there with the match used to light these things. No, just kidding
about the matches! I used to build, test, transport, and launch Atlas Space
Launch Vehicles. These are Atlas E rockets, former ICBM's, that were launched
from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch control center,
where we are all cooped up for 3 hours before launch and 30 minutes after
launch is located between the two tapered buildings, and is covered in
smoke in the photograph above, which was taken from an Air Force helicopter
circling overhead. The photo below is a ground-level shot showing the umbilical
mast retracted and the rocket on its way. The main fire out the bottom
is the three main engines. The fires to either side of the mains are the
generators used to pump the fuel. The two small fires on the side of the
rocket are the steering engines.
We used to build new Atlas I and Atlas II Launch
Vehicles at Vandenberg, transport them to San Diego by road, then load
them into a C-5 cargo aircraft for the trip to Cape Canaveral in Florida.
This photo shows an onramp being negotiated by the truck and the tillermen
steering the rear wheels of the trailer from pods in the rear where they
rode for the whole trip. I had the distinction of being the only transportation
engineer to have had a flat tire on the trailer, which just
happened to be on the freeway in the middle of Los
Angeles. When the tire blew, it took out the air brake hose on the trailer,
making the trailer impossible to move. Fortunately, we stopped on an overpass
just 50 yards from a truck and tractor supply house in San Fernando, California.
They sold Fords. Cool. We were fixed and under way in about an hour. The
shop had to make us a new air hose, and they loaned me an easy-out to remove
the broken fitting from the air-brake pod. Talk about a good place to break
down. We were lucky.
Click here to read more and see more photos of Atlas
rockets on the road! I guarantee you'll be amazed!
Look out, it's ALIVE!!!
Here, a C-5 cargo airplane is swallowing an Atlas
I rocket whole. Must have had some kinda bad indigestion after this. This
is how we got the rockets from California to Florida. I got to ride with
it once. You sit backwards in military aircraft, as long as you're not
the pilot. No windows. No stewardesses. No movie. But it sure was fun!
It was fast, too. Those things fly just as fast or faster than commercial
aircraft. Amazing. And that distinctive sound you hear from the outside
is what you hear inside the whole time.
The New Breed at Vandenberg!
This is the first Atlas Centaur vehicle to be
erected on the West Coast! The pad is a converted Atlas H launch facility.
The engineers had to add lots of structure and facilities to accomodate
the larger vehicle and its hydrogen fuel. The new SLC3-E is the model of
high-tech launch pads in the United States. This rocket is an Atlas 2AS,
the "S" standing for "solid rocket boosters." You can see the forward support
ring as a white band about a third of the way up the Atlas portion.
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