Monday, October 25, 2010

Before the Future Began


On the road to Bumper ... The intersection of Bumper Road and Central Control Road.

On September 9 I wrote about the free Cape Canaveral Air Force Station history tour provided by Patrick Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum.

That led me to volunteer as a docent for the museum, which among other things grants me access to unrestricted areas of CCAFS.

Today I sought out Launch Complex 3 (LC-3), where on July 24, 1950 the first rocket was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral.

That rocket was designated Bumper 8. The Bumper program was a descendent of Germany's World War II V-2. After Dr. Wehrner Von Braun and his scientists surrendered to the U.S. Army, they were sent to White Sands, New Mexico where they conducted a series of launch tests. The Bumper was a V-2 rocket with a WAC Corporal payload attached to the top. Only one of the six White Sands launches, Bumper 5, was deemed successful.

The Bumper program moved to Cape Canaveral for several reasons, the main one being that rockets could be launched over the ocean where if they failed they wouldn't land on anyone. Two remaining rockets, Bumpers 7 and 8, were shipped to the Cape. Bumper 7 misfired, so Bumper 8 was the first to successfully launch. Bumper 7 flew five days later.

I knew from the bus tour that remnants of LC-3 survived, so I went to the site today to shoot photos and see what I could find.


LC-3 in 1950 with a Bumper rocket on the ring pad.

Not much remains, and what does is not maintained. Below are photos of what I found.

For more information on Bumper, I recommend this page on Spaceline.org.


I believe this is where the ring pad was located.


A view to the southeast with Launch Complex 46 in the distance.


This abandoned structure across the road was labelled the Operations Control Building.


Looking towards the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse to the southwest.


Contrast this 1950 photo with the one above it. The Lighthouse can be seen in roughly the same location. Based on the road spur to the upper right, I suspect that "Y" might be where the Bumper Road / Central Control Road sign is located today.







4 comments:

  1. Hi Stephen -- neat to see your work -- my dad was Weather Officer for Bumper 8 and while he was out at the Lighthouse Keepers Quarters forecasting, we watched it from the beach at the O'Club (18 mos. old at the time), across A1A from our quarters. I went back to that spot and was there at 9:24 am on July 24th to close the loop. Also have the Missileer from 30 July 50 that has the (a?) classic pic on the cover, likely the only copy left anywhere. Also somewhere have my dad's hand written note about how high it went and what failed in the upper stage, if my memory serves me correctly. Thought you might be interested... best, Lloyd Behrendt, Blue Sawtooth Studio, Malabar, Florida

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  2. Hello Lloyd --

    Thank you for reading ... Since writing the above article, I've talked to two docents at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum. They researched the site and believe the Bumper 8 launch site was a bit further back from the existing ring, near a yellow spot with burn marks around it. I hope to return to LC-3 and check it out.

    I have a scanner I can use to digitize documents, photos and negatives. It you would like to have your copy of the Misileer or anything else scanned to preserve it for history, please let me know.

    I've been doing more research on the Bumper program. The first six were launched at White Sands. Bumper 5 was the first man-made object to reach space, on February 24, 1949. We never hear about that yet you'd think it would be as historic as Sputnik 1 or Yuri Gagarin or Apollo 11.

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  3. Hi Stephen, I written several articles on the first launches at the Cape (for one "www.ksc.nasa.gov/KSCDirect/Bumper8.doc"). The spot you located is not the actual launch mount for Bumper which is shaped like a square with additional little squares at the corners (look at V2 launch mounts and you'll see what I mean). Also the launch control building had not been completed (or started) at the time of Bumper 7/8, they used a temporary building. It's great to see that you're interested and if you contact me I'll provide more information. Thanks!

    Stan Starr NASA KSC

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  4. Thank you, Lloyd. Your article is very thorough. I very much appreciate the link.

    It seems a lot of people have tried to figure out what happened where, when and why. Too bad their efforts haven't been coordinated. :-)

    I did my first presentation today at the Space and Missile Museum. I talked about Bumper 5, Bumper 8 and LC-3. I'll use your material in the future.

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