Sunday, January 2, 2011
Vanguard Revisited (Part II)
Vanguard I on the pad at Launch Complex 18 sometime in 1958.
The roar of the ocean surf is easily heard these days at Launch Complex 18. The dual-pad facility was deactivated in 1967. It's a storage facility and dumping ground.
LC-18 was originally built for the Air Force to test the Thor, an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Thor was to use the adjacent LC-17 and LC-18 facilities, but LC-18 wouldn't be needed for years.
Looking for a Cape Canaveral home, Project Vanguard agreed to share LC-18 with Thor. Vanguard was a nominally civilian research program that would launch America's first satellite in space as part of the International Geophysical Year.
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I in October 1957 and Sputnik II in November 1957, Vanguard was viewed by many as our nation's response, which it was never intended to be. The third Vanguard test vehicle exploded live on national television on December 6, 1957. "Vanguard" became synonymous with failure.
So it's perhaps symbolic that today LC-18 is used to store portable toilets, among other debris.
On December 31, 2010, I went to LC-18 to explore what remains of this historic launch complex. Below are photos of what I found.
This map shows the location of LC-18 and nearby facilities. LC-17 is adjacent to the southwest. Beyond that is LC-26, the home of the Air Force Space & Missile Museum. To the northeast is LC-31, where the remains of the Shuttle orbiter Challenger are buried.
Looking southwest past the blockhouse to the LC-17 gantries.
The front door of the abandoned blockhouse.
The rear of the abandoned blockhouse looks towards Pad 18-A. Note the cableway running towards the pad.
The horizon window has long been obscured by Nature.
Behind the blockhouse, looking southwest towards the LC-17 gantries. The rails in the foreground were used to move the service tower gantry. Discarded light poles lie between the rails.
The approach to Pad 18-B. Note the partially exposed cableway.
Inside the Pad 18-B cableway. The blockhouse was close to the pads due to the limitations of 1950s electronic communication technology.
Looking towards Pad 18-A, where the Vanguard rockets were launched. Note the rails.
Contrast the previous photo with this image of a 1958 static test firing.
A closeup of the launch pad. Note the scorch marks. Beyond the pad is the deluge pond where water ran off.
Pad 18-A from the perspective of the horizon window. Note the cableway.
Pad 18-A as seen from the front of the blockhouse.
Portable toilets are stored next to the LC-18 parking lot.
PREVIOUSLY: How history maligned Project Vanguard.