The blockhouse is similar to other structures built at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the mid 1950s. The walls are two-feet thick, and the dome-shaped roof varies from approximately five-feet thick along the edges to nearly eight-feet directly overhead. The windows are composed of three segments of glass, each comprised of 15 layers of one-quarter inch glass, for a total of 45 layers of glass per window, measuring about one-foot thick. The double set of blast doors are made of heavy armor-like plating. This sturdy construction was to afford those working in the blockhouse (situated a mere 400 feet from the launch pads) with a measure of protection from an explosion.
Launch Complex 26 is a dual-pad, single blockhouse facility. Two firing rooms are inside, one used in support of each pad, The firing rooms are furnished with much of the original equipment. The lighting fixtures, paint scheme, and wiring paths are all original. The gantry, or launch tower, is sitting on Pad 26B. Pad 26A is to the north. Along the ground is a long row of metal plates which cover a three-foot deep cableway that connects the blockhouse and the launch pads. When this was an active launch complex, instrumentation on the gantry and missile was wired to controls in the firing rooms.
Construction of this facility began in 1956 to support the U.S. Army's Redstone, Jupiter and Juno programs. The two pads were built at a cost of $3.4 million dollars each. Pad 26A supported its first launch 28 August 1957. Pad 25B's first launch was 22 October 1957. Explorer I, the first successful launch of an American satellite, occurred from Pad A on 31 January 1958. Three "monkeynauts" (Gordo, Able, and Miss Baker), were launched from here in 1958 and 1959, paving the way for future manned space flights.
The launch complex was deactivated in 1963 after a total of 36 launches. In 1964 the facility was designated for use as a space museum.
QUESTION: If the blockhouse is nearly airtight, how you breathe when the blast doors are closed?
ANSWER: If you look north and south along the road in front of the blockhouse, you will see two unusual structures (left) sticking out of the ground. These are the outdoor air vents consisting of a steel pipe about 18 inches in diameter that lead underground and into the blockhouse air ventilation room (right). The red structures on the pipe are pneumatic actuators that open and close a valve inside the pipe. To this day, air is pulled into the blockhouse through these vent pipes.
QUESTION: What is this strange looking mechanism (left) in the blockhouse ventilation room?
ANSWER: It is a low-pressure air pump. Its purpose was to recirculate dried gas through the spaces between the blockhouse blast windows (right). The cylinder contains desiccant crystals that remove any residual moisture from the gas. The pump has been shut off since the complex became inactive resulting in moisture buildup in some of the blast windows.
QUESTION: Why is the blockhouse only 400 feet from the launch pad?
ANSWER: When this blockhouse was built, rocket control circuits used direct current (DC) over copper wires. Due to the resistance of the wires, the voltage to the controlled relays and switches on the rocket was attenuated and that limited the distance between the control point and the rocket itself. The practical limit for remoting was about five hundred feet.
The wall panel (left) in Firing Room B, contains the blockhouse end points to the copper wire cables running through the cable trench. The other end point is in the tunnel beneath the launch pad. These standard cables allowed for changes to the wiring scheme for each rocket by changing on the end connections, negating the need to lay new cables.
Modern data transmission methods have eliminated the need for the long DC over copper wire runs so necessary in the early days.