VAB Nears Completion

At the beginning of October 1964, a survey revealed that the construction force on all contracts at the new Merritt Island spaceport had reached a total of 4,300, with about 500 more equipment installers at work. At that time, KSC had 1,670 federal employees, 1,902 support services contractor employees, and 863 employees of launch vehicle contractors. The Florida Operations Division of the Manned Spacecraft Center (deeply involved in Project Gemini, which would launch its first manned orbital flight the following March, and just becoming concerned with the activation of Apollo spacecraft facilities) had a force of 502 federal employees and 1,042 persons in the employ of contractors. Overall employment at Cape Kennedy and Merritt Island was expected to exceed 15,000 by 1 January 1965.28

Firing Room 1 under construction

Firing room 1 under construction, August 1965. The VIP viewing area is under the glass wall, left. The windows on the extreme left looked towards the pads. The triangular extension into the room above the VIP area was intended for the most distinguished guests.

Firing Room 1 ready to equip

Firing room 1 ready for equipping, November 1965. The four large overhead screens, here reflecting ceiling lights, would display major milestones in the countdown.

By Christmas of 1964, the ironworkers had erected nearly 38,000 metric tons of structural steel in the VAB, reaching the 128-meter level in all towers. The LCC building was nearing completion, although interior mechanical work and the installation of electrical fixtures continued on all four floors. The VAB utility annex was also nearing completion, with boiler stacks and skylights completed and installation of mechanical and electrical equipment continuing. Workers had finished the high-pressure-gas storage building on 2 October. The rest of the area facilities were all nearing the end of brick-and-mortar construction, although much installation and outfitting remained.29

Extensible platform being readied

An extensible work platform being prepared for installation in the assembly building, August 1965.

Structural parts for the first of the extensible work platforms in the high bays (five pairs of platforms in each high bay) had arrived at the VAB site. Workmen assembled these platforms outside the VAB because of their size, approximately 18 meters square and up to three stories tall, and then moved them inside for mounting on the framework of the VAB. They would be vertically adjustable. Since they were of cantilever design, they could extend horizontally about 9 meters from the main framework of the building to surround the launch vehicle in the high bay.30

As construction and outfitting continued into 1965, the vertical assembly building got a new name but not a new acronym. It was still the VAB, but now officially the vehicle assembly building, as of 3 February 1965. The new name, it was felt, would more readily encompass future as well as current programs and would not be tied to the Saturn booster. The Office of Manned Space Flight formally approved the change in September 1965, but individuals at the facility continued to use both names interchangeably.31

The Colby Cranes Manufacturing Company had completed shop testing all three bridge cranes in Seattle and had shipped the 175-ton crane to the VAB site. By the end of January 1965, the two 250-ton bridge cranes had followed. They would soon be ready to install. In fact, countless details of the largest building in the world were approaching completion.32

Topping out ceremony

The topping-out ceremony with the signed beam, April 1965.

Erection of the VAB's structural steel framework reached the top level of 160 meters at the end of March, and preparations began for the traditional topping-out ceremony. A 3,600-kilogram, 11.6-meter-long steel I-beam, painted white and bearing the NASA symbol and the insignia of the American Bridge Division of the United States Steel Corporation, stood in front of several of the NASA buildings at KSC during early April to allow NASA and contractor employees to sign their names on it. The signed beam then went under the roof of the VAB over the transfer aisle.33

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