Launch team salutes Cape's pad 36A after final liftoff
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: August 31, 2004
It was the starting point for dozens of commercial communications satellites, military spacecraft and pioneering space probes, including the first man-made object to journey outside our solar system. But after 42 years of Atlas rocket launches, pad 36A saw its final blastoff Tuesday night.
"We are ready to have a toast for Launch Complex 36A that just launched the last MA-5-based Atlas," the Lockheed Martin launch conductor said.
"Man has never been launched from Complex 36, but this site is very rich with history. Back in May 1962, the first Atlas-Centaur, called F-1, launched from 36A."
The initial launch ended in failure, like many others in the early days of the space program.
"Several vehicles were lost as the rocketeers of the time painfully worked out the problems," launch conductor said.
Another early Atlas-Centaur suffered an engine shutdown as it lifted off, causing the booster to fall back and destroy pad 36A.
"That vehicle set the low-altitude record. But the people and the pad bounced back. In 1966, the world watched as Complex 36A launched Surveyor 1 and 2. The Surveyors made a soft landing on the moon. For the first time, we were all amazed to see up close the surface.
"In 1969, Mariner 7 was launched to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars from Complex 36A. In 1972, Pioneer 10 was launched from Complex 36A and became the first man-made object to leave the solar system having first flown past Jupiter and the asteroid belt."
When the Atlas 2 program was created in the late 1980s, the pad was overhauled to support in the new series of rockets.
"The pad continued to perform, launching payloads that protect our military and our security, as well as providing communications for the world," launch conductor said.
"Having been active for 42 years and 69 launches, we now retire this pad for Atlas 2. At this point, please raise your glass as a salute to the proud history of Space Launch Complex 36A."
"We will go into what we call a safe-and-secure on the pad A, make sure that we have the pad in a safe and secure configuration," said Adrian Laffitte, Lockheed Martin's director of Atlas launch operations at the Cape.
"Pad A backs up Pad B with respect to systems and also for spares. So in order to maintain that capability, those systems that are backup to 36B or used as spares will be maintained in a ready condition.
"After that, we would love -- once we launch the last Atlas 3 -- that the blockhouse be used as a museum. There is a lot of history in there. But we haven't quite gotten to that point."
The Atlas 3 flight next year will be the 145th and last launch for Complex 36's two pads.
Future launches will use the Atlas 5 family of rockets that fly from Complex 41.
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