Historic tower at Launch Complex 13 toppled
What took years to build took seconds to knock down Aug. 6 when 171 pounds of strategically placed explosives were detonated, toppling the historic 179-foot mobile service tower at Launch Complex 13 here


By Ken Warren, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005

  
Historic tower at Launch Complex 13 toppled
ABOVE: CAPE CANAVERAL AFS, Fla. – The historic 179-foot mobile service tower at Launch Complex 13 was demolished here Aug. 6. There were 51 launches of Atlas and Atlas/Agena vehicles from this tower from 1958 to 1978, including five Lunar Orbiter missions that photographed about 99 percent of the moon’s surface – paving the way for the first manned moon landing. BELOW: CAPE CANAVERAL AFS, Fla. – Workers from Jacobs Engineering examine the historic 179-foot mobile service tower at Launch Complex 13 after it was toppled by explosives here Aug. 6.


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CAPE CANAVERAL AFS, Fla. – What took years to build took seconds to knock down Aug. 6 when 171 pounds of strategically placed explosives were detonated, toppling the historic 179-foot mobile service tower at Launch Complex 13 here.

The 1,300-ton structure was used to launch Atlas/Agena space launch vehicles in the 1960s and 1970s. The most famous of those launches were five Lunar Orbiter missions for NASA in 1966 and 1967. Those missions photographed about 99 percent of the moon’s surface and helped pave the way to men landing on the moon in 1969.

There were 51 launches of Atlas and Atlas/Agena vehicles from Complex 13 from 1958 to 1978. The last launch from Complex 13 occurred April 6, 1978, and the pad was abandoned.

Salt air and the elements whittled away at the complex and tower. Pieces of the rusty structure, along with toxic paint chips, fell to the ground, creating safety and environmental hazards.

“The demolition of this tower demonstrates our commitment to safety and a healthy environment,” said Teresa Fiorillo, 45th Civil Engineer Squadron project officer. “Yet, it’s kind of sad to see this historic structure go.”

Col. Mark Owen, 45th Space Wing commander, echoed her sentiment.

“This is where we developed the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile. This is where we sent the launches that NASA used to help map the moon. It is key to our history. So it is kind of like seeing an old soldier go. It is sad,” he said.

Dick Ruffe, of Titusville, is another old soldier and retired Atlas systems engineer. He helped build Complex 13, was involved with many of the flights from there and witnessed the demolition.

“We accomplished a lot at Complex 13,” he said. “Hard to imagine it – but it’s all gone in a puff of smoke. It came down a lot faster than it went up.”

The fallen tower will be cut up and transported to the Cape Canaveral AFS landfill where it will be buried in a special cell. Once the launch site is cleaned up in six to eight months, it will be available for industrial re-use.


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