Vehicle Assembly Building

From Academic Kids

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VAB_aerial_1977.jpg
The vast Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center (1977).
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VAB_under_construction.jpg
The VAB during its early steel construction phase (1963).

The Vehicle (originally Vertical) Assembly Building, or VAB, is a very large building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, halfway between Jacksonville and Miami, and due east of Orlando on Cape Canaveral, on the Atlantic coast of Florida. It is one of the world's largest buildings, and was the tallest building in Florida until 1974.

It was originally built to vertically assemble the stages of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program. It is now used to mate the Space Shuttle with its boosters. Once assembled, the rocket is moved on a moving platform to Launch Complex 39.

The VAB is 160 meters (525 ft) tall, 218 meters (716 ft) long and 158 meters (518 ft) wide. It covers 32,500 square meters (8 acres) and encloses 3,664,883  (129,428,000 ft³) of space.

One indicator of the building's scale is that each of the stars on the American flag painted on the building is 6 feet (1.8 m) across. The flag was added in 1976 as part of United States Bicentennial celebrations. The VAB's interior volume is so vast that it has its own weather system—NASA employees report that rain clouds form below the ceiling on very humid days. To get around, employees occasionally travel within the building via bicycle.

Being in Florida, the building has been constructed to withstand many hurricanes and tropical storms. The most extensive damage ever recorded occurred during Hurricane Frances in September 2004, when about 1,000 10 × 40 foot (3 × 12 m) aluminum panels were blown off the building, resulting in about 40,000 ft² (3,700 ) of new openings in the sides. This came only three weeks after Hurricane Charley caused significant but less serious damage, estimated to cost about $700,000.

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