Flame Deflectors

The last of the major facilities for launch complex 39 to reach the contract stage was the 635-metric-ton flame deflector. It would protect the lower section of the Saturn launch vehicle and the launch stand from high pressures and flame during ignition and liftoff. It would move on rails in the flame trench to a position beneath the Saturn V's massive booster engines. The reflector, shaped like an inverted V, would send the flames down each side of the trench. It would be constructed of structural steel beams and trusses, supporting a steel skin. The skin was covered by 10 centimeters of ceramic material capable of withstanding the direct flame and pressure effects of the Saturn first stage engines. On 5 November 1965, Heyl and Patterson, Inc., signed a contract in the fixed amount of $1,465,075 for the manufacture, installation, and erection of three deflectors.55 Ultimately there would be a fourth, with one in use and another in reserve at each pad.

Without doubt, the many amazing structures under way on complex 39 - the world's largest building, the crawler-transporters, the hold-down arms, the mobile launchers - constituted one of the most awesome building programs in the world. After the American Society of Civil Engineers considered engineering projects from every part of the country in 1966 - the Astrodome in Houston, the North California Flood Rehabilitation work, the Trans-Sierra Freeway from Sacramento to the Nevada line, and the hurricane barrier at New Bedford, Massachusetts, among others - it recognized launch complex 39 as the outstanding civil engineering achievement of the year.56

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