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  Columbia Memorial Space Center: Apollo BP-12

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Author Topic:   Columbia Memorial Space Center: Apollo BP-12
E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-07-2007 07:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Editor's note: When first announced, Apollo Boilerplate 12 (BP-12) was mistakenly identified as BP-6, which flew the Pad Abort-1. BP-12 flew the A-001 test.

I am happy to report that the first Apollo Command Module that was built and flown, has been returned to the site of it's construction in Downey, Calif.

Looking as if it had gone to the Moon and returned, this very early Apollo was flown on Nov. 7, 1963 from White Sands, New Mexico on an escape tower test. It was later given to the employees union hall and bounced around the city of Downey. It now sits outside building #1 a couple of hundred feet where it was constructed.

This is so early a capsule that it is just the general shape without windows. The hatch has three handles and it was never meant to leave the atmosphere. The Abort test was done from the desert to test the escape tower and the capsule went up only a couple thousand feet at the most. Photos can be found of this test in the May 1964 National Geographic Magazine.

When Boeing left Site #19 in 1999, the Aerospace Legacy Foundation was asked by the city to inventory the site for artifacts for a community education center.

After the recent shuttle accident, it was named the Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center, and it will have it's groundbreaking on April 10. The Apollo Command Module will be restored and joined by the first Space Shuttle mockup that was built by Rockwell International in 1974 at the new education center when it is opened next year.

The Downey site is now a movie studio where such films as "Catch Me If You Can" and the upcoming "Charlie Wilson's War" have been filmed.

The Aerospace Legacy Foundation is dedicated to remembering and perserving our aerospace history.

stsmithva
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posted 03-07-2007 08:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the interesting story of the first "flown" Command Module. I liked the contrast between the dramatic shot of the thankfully-never-happened-on-a-mission test and the quiet backlot rest it's earned.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-07-2007 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you. Robert was great at finding that launch pic quickly. I find it interesting that this pre- Block 1 capsule (launched before John Kennedy's death) has dark patches on the paint about where scarring would be on an earth orbiting or lunar return Apollo spacecraft would be.

Though it has been reported that this capsule was scrapped- it was given to the Aerospace employee's union hall by North American Aviation and was seen in front of those halls until they recently closed here.

As you can see it had no windows (painted on) and has a crude hatch with three horizontal handles. But the attach points for the escape tower are visible.

FFrench
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posted 03-08-2007 12:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having witnessed the work of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation (literally, saving valuable Apollo and Shuttle documents while a wrecking crew were demolishing the other end of the building), I'd encourage anyone with an interest in space history to visit their website and support their important efforts.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-08-2007 02:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Francis- We have been successful in a lot of aspects. My favorite was discovering old engineering drawings that helped in post-Columbia work for NASA and Boeing, as the originals were lost in storage.

My strangest story was discovering a full set of leading edge pieces for a shuttle's left wing, sitting in a box all alone in a large warehouse, a few weeks after the accident. They were dated back to pre STS-1. They were later given to Boeing to assist in recovery efforts- with a couple donated for the center.

Anyone have some stories themselves?

Jake
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posted 03-09-2007 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jake   Click Here to Email Jake     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wonderful news Jim! Great to see the history you are preserving there at Downey.

Choose2Go
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posted 03-10-2007 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Choose2Go   Click Here to Email Choose2Go     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting! In researching my Field Guide of American Spacecraft I found a statement saying that BP-6 had been scrapped by Rockwell 5/75. I"ll be happy to update it (as soon as I get it back online! Sorry!).

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-12-2007 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A lot of us were wondering what happened to the field guide for American Spacecraft? I know I speak for many when I say we can't wait to see it up again.

I do want to make one thing clear though - The Legacy Foundation is a non-profit community organization that works with the City of Downey, Ca. to locate and preserve the city's aerospace history, and when I said WE - I meant the community recovered the capsule. ALF had no direct involvement in recovering BP-6 and bringing her back to the plant here.

hlbjr
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posted 03-17-2007 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for hlbjr   Click Here to Email hlbjr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the Downey assembly hall where the Apollo command modules assembled still in existence? Was the Shuttle also produced and/or assembled at Downey?

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-20-2007 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes- but it is now the largest sound stage at the Downey studios. It is currently being prepared for the filming of the Marvel "Ironman" feature film. The large sunken shuttle Cargo bay that was used for the integration or SAIL tests was taken out a couple years ago.

FFrench
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posted 03-25-2007 04:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some photos of the interior spaces can be seen here.

GACspaceguy
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posted 03-25-2007 07:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ok folks, help me here. Some of the posts above refer to the shuttle orbiters as being built in Downey, CA. The web site for the Downey studios also state that the shuttles were built there. I thought that they were assembled and checked out in Palmdale. I know that the wings were built by Grumman in Bethpage as I have worked with one of the designers from that era and he had always talked about the orbiters being assembled in Palmdale. So what was the role of the Downey plant and the space shuttle orbiters?

hlbjr
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posted 03-26-2007 04:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for hlbjr   Click Here to Email hlbjr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So were the Apollo Command Modules assembled in Building 1 or Building 290?

hartspace
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posted 03-27-2007 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for hartspace   Click Here to Email hartspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GACspaceguy:
Some of the posts above refer to the shuttle orbiters as being built in Downey, CA. The web site for the Downey studios also state that the shuttles were built there. I thought that they were assembled and checked out in Palmdale.
All the orbiters were assembled in Palmdale and transported by road to Edwards AFB for subsequent flight to the Cape on the back of the 747. Some of the Rockwell folks can correct me, but I believe all the major engineering work and some of the component assembly was done at Downey.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 03-29-2007 08:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mercury Little Joe boosters were built here in the late 50's. I haven't found out how they left the plant- but Long Beach airport was down the street.

Then Apollo Command and service modules were assembled here in Downey at Bldg. 290 from components built here in Bldg.1 and also around the nation, then trucked down Lakewood Blvd. to Long Beach Airport and flown out by Guppy Transport aircraft or C-133 Cargomaster.

The Shuttle forward crew compartment (with flight deck, mid deck and airlock) was built in Downey (again in 290) and trucked down to Palmdale. The aft fuselage (where the engines sit) was also built here and trucked out there. A complete shuttle wiring vehicle was built in Downey (The "IronBird") in Bldg. 1 and that was for the wiring for every vehicle, as they were each built. Downey also had built and tested a 1/5 scale shuttle stack for shake and vibration testing. This was conducted in the old Little Joe Building.

As these were national projects they were operated from here (for NASA), but final assembly was too large for shuttle and Downey had no airfield to fly orbiters out of by then. It was taken out by 1960.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 10-09-2007 10:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Aerospace Legacy Foundation release
An Apollo mystery

Hatch opening of boilerplate finds that it is a different Apollo

The day was finally cool enough for the team of technicians from the Aerospace Legacy Foundation to make the attempt to go inside the capsule. Ladders were drawn up aside the old craft and they began their assault. The hatch, frozen for nearly 38 years refused to budge, so over 40 bolts had to be drilled out taking nearly five hours. Finally, late in the afternoon, the hatch on the Apollo command module was successfully lifted out. A musty smell from so many years of being closed drifted up. After a few moments, Gerald Blackburn, the president of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation hopped over the frame and went inside. He was met with a huge surprise: the interior layout was incorrect according to the historic drawings. Searching around, he soon found the identification plate, and again was surprised. It read "Boilerplate #12".

On four spots around the inside were found the I.D. plates that yielded the government numbers for the capsule, V 16-00012.

Apollo Boilerplate #12 (BP-12) was the first to fly atop the Little Joe II rocket on May 13, 1964 from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. This early command module reached an altitude of 28,000 feet during the first test of the Apollo Launch Escape System under actual flight conditions. On that historic flight, one of the three parachutes separated from the module at deployment but the capsule still landed upright and suffered little damage (this may explain a slight indentation found on the inside bottom of the heat shield by the inspection team). Documents reveal that BP-12 was later "modified" into BP-12A and BP-12B configurations for rollover water impact testing at Downey, California. BP-12 remains the oldest known Apollo to fly, a mere six months after the first pad abort test.

When outer access hatches were opened it revealed that the capsule had faired well in the 44 years since it was built at Downey. The ID numbers on individual pieces retained their chrome green color and the numbers were clearly visible. Foam, which was likely applied when the craft was prepared for the later water tests, is browning but also in good condition. The only area yet to be examined is the parachute area, which retains a later "Block 1" apex cover, to be lifted off soon. There is some access to this compartment and it appears that some earthly critters were able to find nesting there.

Soon this Apollo will be joined by Boilerplate #19, and both will be prepared as exhibits for the Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center, which is being built in Downey, Ca and is slated to open next year.

The mystery remains: What happened to BP-6?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-10-2007 02:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by E2M Lem Man:
After a few moments, Gerald Blackburn, the president of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation hopped over the frame and went inside.
Additional photographs from the Aerospace Legacy Foundation:

NASA photo (S64-17498) showing the recovery of BP-12.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-10-2007 04:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two additional NASA photos of BP-12:

wickball
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posted 10-10-2007 05:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wickball   Click Here to Email wickball     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cool pictures! Gerald Blackburn must have felt like a kid in a candy store climbing into that thing.

Choose2Go
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posted 10-11-2007 05:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Choose2Go   Click Here to Email Choose2Go     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll update the Field Guide to reflect this news!

garymilgrom
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posted 10-11-2007 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mr. Busby: Is the concrete ring the CM rests on some original part or has this been made recently for holding this capsule? This made-for-Apollo artifact is interesting in its own right. Thank you.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 10-11-2007 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The CM originally was on an angled display stand in the 70's. Then the Union Hall moved and put it on this ring. The boilerplate and the ring were brought over from the Union Hall through the kindness of the Industry Reality Group, who now own the Downey site property.

We only had 24 hours to retrieve the module or the Union was going to sell it. Luckily we didn't need Keifer Sutherland! He might have only blown it up so no one else would get it anyway!

restoring_a_BP
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posted 01-04-2008 10:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for restoring_a_BP   Click Here to Email restoring_a_BP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there a website dedicated to this restoration where we can see additional photos?

Sy Liebergot
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posted 01-05-2008 05:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Sy Liebergot   Click Here to Email Sy Liebergot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All good memories. As a young engineer, I worked at the Downey S&IS Division plant for about four years. As a new flight controller in Houston, I witnessed the pad abort test at White Sands.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 01-08-2008 01:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Sy! We have met a couple of times through Rob Godwin - but I never knew that you were a former "Bald Eaglet" that worked here in Downey.

We are expecting some more interesting Boilerplate news here soon - and I will let you know!

Sy Liebergot
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posted 01-09-2008 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Sy Liebergot   Click Here to Email Sy Liebergot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Please refresh my memory, Jim: Bald Eaglet?

E2M Lem Man
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posted 01-10-2008 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bald Eagles: North American Aviation's logo was the eagle.

Retirees: Bald Eagles!

Sy Liebergot
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posted 01-11-2008 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Sy Liebergot   Click Here to Email Sy Liebergot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Proud to be one! Pretty exclusive historic company in which to be included.

alien1
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posted 11-05-2011 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alien1   Click Here to Email alien1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA BP-12 is going to be on display soon at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey. We are now restoring it, sanding and painting it (very hard to do, since this capsule is almost bullet proof).

I feel very glad to see and work on this capsule. I have seen the hatch label and it says Boilerplate 12

Wow this is a little chunk of NASA history, and I got to touch it, sand it and see it.

Some would say this is junk but this is history. Period. Inside and out and thank god it is now saved by workers like my public works team and myself. This item will be salvaged and saved for all to view for many years to come...

alien1
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posted 11-05-2011 07:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alien1   Click Here to Email alien1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This capsule was encapsulated in some form of a cork type substance over the aluminum frame. We had to scrape the cork off the capsule and sand it it down to the bare metal. Then they plan to re-paint it to the original photos and then display it at the space center in Downey.

We had to wear lead proof containment suits when we sanded this capsule. I guess some of the panels had water damage and some of the aluminum is starting to rot out but no big deal, this will be resolved.

moorouge
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posted 11-08-2011 01:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you scrabble around on the net you'll find the Press Kit for an abort test. Included in it is a full description of the construction of the boilerplate used. The reference number is #65-145. In this instance it is for a high altitude test of the escape system using BP-22. However, I suspect that the construction was similar to the White Sands test on 7th November 1963.

According to the Post-Launch Report for Apollo Mission A-001 (BP-12):

BP-12 was shipped to White Sands Missile Range a few days after it underwent a DEI inspection at El Segundo, Calif. on 10-12 September 1963.

It was mated to the Little Joe II launch vehicle on 30 March 1964 and the flight took place on 13 May 1964.

Except for a parachute failure, spacecraft and LES functioned flawlessly. All but one test objective was met: because of excessive spacecraft oscillation at the time the main parachutes were deployed, one riser was dragged across the spacecraft structure and severed. The shroud lines of the now freed parachute burned a gore in one of the two remaining parachutes.

Although the damaged gore failed, these two main parachutes deployed normally. BP-12 landed 828 meters (22400) feet downrange about five minutes and 50 seconds after liftoff. At impact, its rate of descent was 7.9 meters (26 feet) per second, 0.06 meters (two feet) per second faster than planned but still within human tolerances.

All times are CT (US)

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