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Bringing down the house: Old tower demolished to make way for new programs

The mobile service tower at Space Launch Complex 40 raises a cloud of dust and smoke as it falls to the ground at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station April 27. The obsolete tower was demolished to make way for new launch programs at Cape Canaveral. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney)

The mobile service tower at Space Launch Complex 40 raises a cloud of dust and smoke as it falls to the ground at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station April 27. The obsolete tower was demolished to make way for new launch programs at Cape Canaveral. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- More than 6,500 tons of steel crashed to the surface at Space Launch Complex 40 April 27 when the old mobile service tower (MST) here was toppled as part of the ongoing project to demolish the historic site.

At the end of a ceremonial countdown by 45th Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, just over 200 pounds of high explosives and explosive-initiating materials placed at approximately 500 locations from the first through ninth levels were detonated to knock the 265-foot-tall tower down.

"Out with the old; in with the new," said General Helms.

Complex 40 was built for the Titan IIIC program and was operated from the program's first launch in 1965 until the last TITAN IV launch on April 30, 2005. It hosted a total of 55 historic missions over the years including the Mars Observer interplanetary mission in 1992, the Cassini mission to Saturn launched in 1997, six MILSTAR communications satellites, and numerous Defense Support Program payloads.

"For almost four decades, Com-plexes 40 and 41 were the backbone of the Air Force's heavy-lift capability at Cape Canaveral," said Mark Cleary, 45th Space Wing historian.
Previously considered the largest moving structure in the world, Complex 40's Mobile Service Tower was replaced in 1992 and included a state-of-the-art satellite processing facility for Department of Defense and National Reconnaissance Office payloads. It housed one of the largest class 100,000 clean room facilities in the industry and when rolling to the launch position, it moved at a stately pace of 40 feet per minute.

AMEC Earth and Environmental is managing the demolition of the SLC-40 MST under a base-wide demolition program following the end of the Atlas and Titan rocket programs.
"There is a significant amount of recyclable metals in the MST, and with the recycled values recovered from this demolition, the Air Force is able to fund this demolition and other demolitions as part of the Titan deactivation" said project officer Jonathan Vanho of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron.