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The Cape, Chapter 3, Section 7

Medium and Light Military Space Operations

Modification of Cape Facilities for ATLAS II/CENTAUR Operations

With a full manifest of military ATLAS II launches in prospect, General Dynamics set to work preparing the old ATLAS/CENTAUR complex for the new ATLAS II and ATLAS IIA vehicles. Pad 36A needed a new Umbilical Tower (UT), and a major sandblasting and recoating effort was required to halt corrosion on 36B's UT and the Mobile Service Towers (MSTs) on both launch pads. The top of Pad 36A's MST would be cut off just above Level 16, and a 40-foot-tall "splice" consisting of four working levels would be inserted between Level 16 and the MST's old roof. A new elevator would be added to the west side of the MST, and all utilities and operational services would be extended to the new levels. Bridge cranes, traction drive systems and pneumatic work platforms needed repairs. Electrical wiring conduits and water deluge systems needed to be repaired or replaced. Cracks in the blockhouse's roof and walls had to be patched. High pressure storage tanks, safety equipment, propellant pumps and compressors had to be checked and repaired as required. Finally, all propellant systems and storage tanks would have to be recertified to meet new, stricter Air Force safety requirements.45

Figure 118: Aerial View of Complex 36
May 1989

On 1 December 1988, Bechtel won the General Dynamics contract to build the Umbilical Tower for Pad 36A. Bechtel began removing old concrete in February 1989, and the tower's foundation support pilings were driven and load-tested by June 1989. Concrete was poured for the base of the UT in June, and the basic structure was completed in October 1989. The new UT was completed around the middle of February 1990, and it was turned over to General Dynamics. In the meantime, primary sandblasting on Pad 36A's MST was completed by mid-January 1990, and work on that tower's 40-foot extension began on 29 January 1990. The basic structure was up by late August, and the extension was virtually complete by mid-September 1990. Gas storage vessel calculations and systems walkdown inspections were completed in December 1990 and February 1991, but General Dynamics admitted that many other systems would not be completed on time. By the end of September 1991, there were still unresolved problems with Pad 36A's bridge crane, MST drive system, MST erection hoist, the east elevator and the launcher. Though a Wet Dress Rehearsal for the site was completed successfully toward the end of October 1991, Quality Assurance officials (ESMC/PQC) still questioned the company's compliance with the corrosion control aspects of its contract with the Air Force. Fortunately, many of the remaining loose ends were resolved over the next five months. On 17 March 1992, Mr. Don Tidwell (Air Force Quality Assurance) signed the certificate of acceptance for Pad 36A, but some exceptions were noted. Among the discrepancies listed, Range Safety took a special interest in Pad 36A's launcher. It had some welding problems. General Dynamics agreed to have additional non-destructive testing done to confirm the integrity of the welds. By early May 1992, Range Safety (45 SPW/SEM) was convinced that there were enough safety factors built into the launcher to make it safe for at least two or three more ATLAS II launches. The company would have the welds inspected thoroughly after each launch, and, if the welds were rejected, the contractor would have to accept the Air Force's ruling and delay the next mission.46

Figure 119: Complex 36 Mobile Service Tower under construction
February 1990
Figure 120: Complex 36 Towers
September 1990

The Cape: Miltary Space Operations 1971-1992
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925

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