Range Tracking

The Milkstool

These images are from old slides dating back to the early 1980s taken at Kennedy Space Center. Sadly, even when the images were new the quality was not good since they were taken with a small box camera with a rather funky lens. What makes the images interesting is when they were taken at the beginning of the Shuttle era there are some remnants from the Apollo Program still visible in the form of one of the Saturn V gantries towering on the horizon next to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
In this image the gantry, or Mobile Launcher with its red Umbilical Tower, stands forlornly at right next to the hulking Vehicle Assembly Building and the low-slung Launch Control Center. The white van with the no longer used NASA worm logo on its side is the Astrovan returning from delivering astronauts to Launch Complex 39A for one of the early Space Shuttle missions. Note the car partially seen in the left hand corner is covered in plastic. This was to prevent damage to the car’s paint job should the exhaust cloud from the Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters drift over the parking lot. As you can see, not everyone took this precaution.
A shot of the Mobile Launcher and the lower half of the Umbilical Tower used for the Saturn V rocket repurposed with the pedestal, or “milkstool,” allowing for the tower to be used for launching from Complex 39 the much smaller Saturn IB rockets used during the Skylab program and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Assembling the Saturn IB atop the pedestal inside the VAB and launching from Pad 39 was deemed preferable to using the aging Saturn IB launch complexes out at Cape Canaveral. Thus, the milkstool was born. Raising the rocket up on the pedestal allowed for using the umbilicals and connections already in place for the Saturn V with a minimum of fuss.
Though the Umbilical Tower and the pedestal were scrapped years ago, the platform they sat on is still available for use.
What the Mobile Launcher and Umbilical Tower looked like with a Saturn 1B on the pedestal. The pedestal was used only four times, three times to send astronauts to Skylab, the last time shown here in this NASA image was for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

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