Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations

Design of the Central Instrumentation Facility

Under the terms of the Webb-McNamara agreement, LOC was given certain instrumentation responsibilities on Merritt Island. Debus assigned these to Karl Sendler, the Director of Information Systems; and FY 1964 construction of facilities budget estimates for launch instrumentation reflected the new management.42 Subsequent agreements concluded by Debus and the Missile Test Center clarified the instrumentation program and established a Joint Instrumentation Planning Group as the local coordinating body.

The systems planned for installation in the central instrumentation facility were based upon those developed during Saturn I operations at complexes 34 and 37. The instrumentation systems criteria group held numerous meetings with design and operations personnel to determine what measurements were needed. Experience with LC-34 and LC-37 was of limited value, however, because the distance from LC-39 to the control center was more than 14 times as long. After the criteria had been established, fixed-price contracts were negotiated. The digital acquisition equipment was designed by Scientific Data Systems; the computer was the GE 635. Since the number of on-board measurements for the vehicle had increased from 200 to 300, it was necessary to procure equipment that produced accurate data in real time. For this type of instrumentation, there was no inhouse design, but the specifications were assembled and bids were solicited from industry.43

By May 1963 the design criteria for the central instrumentation facility were available. The building - a three-story structure of approximately 12,480 square meters just west of the headquarters building - would house computers and other electronic equipment for reduction of telemetry data, analysis, and transmission to other NASA centers. A smaller building, later known as the CIF antenna site, was placed 2.5 kilometers north of the industrial area, to be free of radio-frequency interference and have clear lines of vision to the NASA launch complexes.44

The central instrumentation facility reflected the desire of Karl Sendler and his planners to centralize the handling of NASA data and provide housing for general instrumentation activities that served more than one complex. LOC coordinated the planning with the other NASA centers and with the Atlantic Missile Range. It was necessary to ground all metal in the structure and to ground separately the commercial power and the instrumentation power systems. Fluorescent lights were not permitted - they cause electromagnetic interference. When completed, the central instrumentation facility, with disc-shaped antennas adorning the roof, would be the most distinctive building in the industrial area.