Kennedy Space Center – April 2008


Mike had the opportunity to attend the Rocket Test Facility Operators Working Group (RTFOWG) conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL in April of 2008 to give a presentation on his data acquisition and control system.

RTFOWG was renamed “Rocket Test Group” (RTG) at this conference since the common pronunciation had been “Rat Fog”.

NASA Life Science Building

The presentations were given in the Space Life Science building on base. The conference room was at the top of those large windows behind the flags. The windows look north toward the assembly building and the launch pads. Mike’s manager Fernando, and the CTS facilities manager Jerry, were along as observers. His DA&C presentation went very well.

NASA Crawler

After the presentations, our host took us on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of KSC. Above is 1 of the 4 pairs of tracks on the crawler. Each steel pad weighs over a ton. I picked up sample Tennessee river-rocks for the kids. These hard white rocks are trucked in from Tennessee to fill the 50’ wide by 8’ deep rock paths the crawler travels from the assembly building to the launch ramp. Florida swamp soil won’t support a 6 million pound load. The crawler turns the rocks to powder.

RTFOWG Group Photo

Here is the conference group photo taken by our host. Mike is on the far left. The crawler is almost twice as far from the camera as the people.

NASA Orbiter Processing Facility

Our tour bus parked outside this building for over half an hour waiting for clearance to go in. Everyone had already been thoroughly vetted and assigned temporary NASA employee badges. Security guards were heavily armed.

Before we got off the bus, we were told no to touch any flight hardware and not to use the flash on our cameras. Employees were performing delicate functions and could be distracted.

Mike under ATLANTIS

We entered doors at the end of a tunnel and proceeded under low-hanging steel supports. Space Shuttle Atlantis was directly above us.

ATLANTIS Starboard Fuel Hatch

The Orbiter Preparation Facility is where shuttles are inspected and repaired. Between 150 and 250 tiles are replaced between missions. Multi-colored tags were sticking out all over the underside indicating necessary action. The picture above is the corner of a hatch where the shuttle mounts to the liquid oxygen tank at liftoff. There is a 16” pipe fitting just inside to supply the 3 main engines. The green paint is on the thin aluminum skin. These are some of the thinnest tiles on the shuttle. Sorry about the blur. No flash pictures allowed.

ATLANTIS Tile Repair

Here is a technician preparing a hole near the front landing gear hatch for one of the 20,000 unique tiles. These are some of the thicker tiles. The aluminum padded foot to the left is holding the pilot-side landing gear hatch closed.

Mike in Front of ATLANTIS Nose Gear

The open hatch above Mike covers the landing gear on the shot-gun side.


We were allowed to go anywhere on the floor level for over 40 minutes. That was an incredible experience.

NASA Pad 39B

We passed the tourist observation tower a mile before reaching launch pad 39B. This is a wide angle lens shot. I wondered if Walter Cronkite had ever gotten this close. The concrete channel in the picture is huge. During a launch, tons of water per second is sprayed into this area to keep the pad from melting. The heavy fence 300’ behind me looked like my old BBQ grill; the one that had to be thrown away.

NASA Pad 39B Close-Up

This shot was taken from the same location without the wide angle.

39A Platform Group Photo

This final group photo was taken with the Atlantic Ocean just 50’ behind the camera. That is launch pad 39A in the distance. This location was one of our few stops included on the tourist route.

Mike at KSC Visitor's Center

The temporary NASA employee badges got us into the visitor’s center for free and even worked for discounts in the gift shop.