November 18, 2010

The Vehicle Assembly Building

I just got 3D glasses today through Alan Boyle of CosmicLog, and I couldn't resist using a 3D video I had seen of the inside of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building for my glasses’ first light1. The Vehicle Assembly Building is one of the largest buildings on the planet, fourth by volume. The 3D video gives a great idea of the immense scale of the structure, with great views from the inside.

The Vehicle Assembly Building was originally constructed in order to assemble the components of the Saturn V rockets vertically. The building was large enough to contain four of the gargantuan rockets at a time, and includes four massive doors (the largest in the world) that each allowed the Saturn V to pass under. Nowadays, the Vehicle Assembly Building is used for the stacking of the space shuttle, combining vertically the orbiter, the solid rocket boosters, and the external fuel tank.

Rollout of Apollo 11
Image: NASA

STS-36 Rollout
Image: NASA

The duties of the VAB are not so clear once the space shuttle program is retired in 2011. Any future program that utilizes Launch Complex 392 will have access to it, however, none have been upon yet. One possible route could be the Orion Asteroid Mission, a modification of the Constellation program that would allow human exploration of an asteroid.


1: Yes, technically this isn’t first light, since that’s generally a term used for the first astronomical images taken by an instrument. I extended the definition to encompass the first 3D images viewed through my glasses.
2: The set of two launchpads and the Vehicle Assembly Building that was originally designed for the Apollo program and now used by the space shuttle program.

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