The NEW Area 51

PART THREE

Finally! The part you've been waiting for! The exciting launch pad where they fired the Athena rockets all the way to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Well at least it was exciting for those who lived under the flight path of the rockets.

Athena rocket on it's launch rail Athena rocket on it's launch rail

These are historical pictures of an Athena rocket, to the left on it's launch rail, which sits atop a concrete pedestal, and to the right, an Athena rocket being fired. The missile was tilted, roughly, in the direction of White Sands Missile Range in southwest New Mexico. The launch personal were all in the control bunker. Control cables ran from the bunker to the launch site in metal raceways, except for the last 100 feet where they were under ground, entering the concrete pedestal from beneath. In the picture on the left the control bunker can be seen behind and just to the left of the rocket.


Launch pad view

The launch pad is actually about 400 feet long, with rails along the sides. You can see them in this photo taken from the top of the rocket assembly shelter. This is the same pad, one of three, that is in the top photo on this page. The shelter, now at the end of the pad farthest from the pedestal, has steel wheels which roll along the rails so the shelter can be moved over the launch pedestal to protect the rocket and the workers while the vehicle is prepared for launch.


Vehicle Assembly Building

Back on the ground, this is the assembly building. It was heated when in use and could be completely closed to the weather. Although I'm sure it was moved by power, I couldn't find anything the would indicate how this was done.


Launch Pad Base

The rocket launch rail was bolted to this concrete cylinder. The concrete wall in the background was used for protection of personnel when the rocket lifted off.


Launch Pad Interior

Looking into the launch pad cylinder, you can see the mounting bolts for launch rail. Inside the ends of the control cables can be seen, amid the trash, that were cut or sawed off just as in the control room. I thought there would be some sort of 'burn marks' on the outside of the cylinder or the surrounding ground but there was nothing. Forty years of weather must have cleaned it quite well.


There's a lot more old equipment laying around the site, but it's in such disrepair that it's difficult to determine just how it was used. I did notice that around the perimeter of the site there were large light fixtures atop wood poles - pointed outside the complex. I suppose the Air Force wanted to be sure no one was around during night launches. It could be dangerous if something went wrong.

There are a lot of pictures and references on the Web for the Green River Launch Complex. One that I found very interesting with lots of historical photos is the J Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah collection.

Do I suggest that you visit this place yourself? No. Besides being in an area of old Uranium mines, the Green River Launch Complex is on the list of EPA Superfund cleanup sites. It's not a great environment. It also still is military property, and though I never saw anyone there during my two visits, you never know.



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