The Shuttle Launch Experience has become one of the main attractions at the Kennedy Space Center since it first opened to visitors in 2007. The 44,000 square foot, 6-story tall building is dedicated to giving visitors a good appreciation of what it might be like to lift off from LC39A.
Through the input of some serious astronauts, it was imperative that the design of the Shuttle Launch Experience give as real an experience as possible to the historic shuttle lift-off. Those concerned about the budget impact of this new feature will be reassured that the $60 million project was funded through visitor admission revenue, food and retail sales with no tax payer expense.
The Journey Begins
As crew members ascend along the gantry of the Shuttle Launch Simulation Facility, astronaut testimonials via video terminals along the way set the stage for what is to come. Entering the heart of Space Shuttle operations for the pre-launch briefing, crew members are guided by veteran Space Shuttle Commander Charlie Bolden as he takes them step-by-step through the launch sequence. Once thoroughly briefed on the mission, passengers enter the crew cabin on the Space Shuttle’s payload bay and securely strap in for launch. Over the next five minutes, the cabin’s 44 passengers see, feel and live the powerful journey to 17,500 mph. The payload bay doors open, to reveal a breathtaking view of Earth seldom seen in the first person. After this experience, visitors will never view a launch in the same way.
Creating the Experience
The Shuttle Launch Experience goes to great lengths to give you the sensation of being lifted into the heavens at around 17,500 miles per hour atop a fireball. The designers of the simulator, interviewed over 20 astronauts on what that experience was like, what it felt like, what it sounded like. Those experiences were then codified and translated into a simulation that stays inside the 6-story building.
The most sensational aspects of the ride is the incredible shaking, the sound and the sensation that you’ve suddenly gained about 300 pounds as your body sinks back into the secured seat. Just as everything begins to even out, you suddenly have the strong sensation of being weightless as the elevated capsule returns to the level position.
The designers have used all the tricks in the book to give you those authentic sensations.. Inside the capsule, you’re auditory senses will hear 13-channel sound that reproduces the road of the engines. Special very low frequencies will give your stomach that queasy, uneasy feeling, plus some additional vibration. The forward 84″ high definition screen gives you a glimpse of what you might see looking forward out of the shuttle.
Shuttle Launch Experience was designed by BRC Imagination Arts, who also designed the Apollo/Saturn V Center which opened in 1997 at the Visitor Complex. BRPH Companies Inc. served as the architect and construction manager.