MOMENTS IN SPACE HISTORY
38: SPACE COAST LIVING | SPACECOASTLIVING.COM
The Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule are surrounded
by work platforms inside High Bay 3 of the assembly building.
Ground integration engineer Olivia Fuentes is involved in a safety training
system for astronauts in the VAB for future Artemis flights to the moon.
“We’d be stacking a booster or shuttle and there would be a
launch 3 miles away,” McKune recalls. “It would oscillate a
His life’s work in the space program is a dream fulfilled.
“Being a critical part of that chain was exciting,” McKune says.
‘At that time, no one else had a vehicle like the shuttle. There
are a lot of unsung heroes who all contributed vastly.”
TEST OF TIME
The VAB’s interior has been modified to serve its flight
systems during the 56 years of the spaceport’s launches. The
elevators and work platforms had to be redesigned for the
shuttle program and the same has been done for the Artemis
mission. Exterior physical maintenance from aging and
hurricanes has been ongoing.
“The building’s interior has undergone lots of changes,” Koller
says. “But with all of that change, the VAB has remained the
centerpiece of the Kennedy Space Center. It’s still as viable
today as it was when we began.”
Its longevity is widely acknowledged. The Florida Association
of the American Institute of Architects awarded it the Test
of Time award and the American Society of Civil Engineers
designated it as a National Historical Engineering Landmark.
It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Olivia Fuentes, a NASA ground integration engineer,
looks to an exciting future for the assembly hangar in its
part with the Artemis missions. She works at the Kennedy
Space Center’s Exploration Ground Systems that has been
updating the assembly hangar since 2014 as part of NASA’s
challenge to head back to the moon and later to Mars.
In mid-August, the 5.75 million-pound, 322-foot-high
combined Space Launch System rocket, Lockheed Martin’s
Orion capsule and mobile launcher were set to roll out
from the massive hangar to Launch Pad 39B to launch no
earlier than Aug. 29 for an uncrewed Artemis I test flight
orbiting the moon and returning.
A few of the major upgrades include 10 levels of flexible
platforms installed in the high bay that can move in and
out and up and down, Fuentes explains via an online
video call in July. A new fire protection system and
environmental control system have been installed and
all four of the huge liftoff doors on the high bays have
been upgraded. She is proud of an emergency egress
system being installed in the assembly hangar to train the
astronauts for safety procedures.
“Everything has a time and place for the work to be done,
and the steps in which the different tasks need to be done
are critical,” Fuentes says. “It’s been quite a feat and quite
a journey for NASA to have so many people come together
for Artemis 1 and ready to launch. We are very blessed to
be part of the program.”