Vehicle Assembly Building
The Vehicle (originally Vertical) Assembly Building, or VAB, is located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It is the fourth largest building in the world by volume. The building is at Launch Complex 39 at KSC, halfway between Jacksonville and Miami, and due east of Orlando on Merritt Island on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The VAB is the largest single-story building in the world, was the tallest building in Florida until 1974, and is still the tallest building in the United States outside an urban area.

The VAB was originally built to allow for the vertical assembly of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program. It is now used for housing Space Shuttle external fuel tanks and flight hardware, and is the location of space shuttle orbiter mating (stacking) with the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank, that combined makes up the complete Space Transportation System, called the Space Shuttle for short. Once assembled, the Space Transportation System is moved on the Mobile Launcher Platform and Crawler-Transporter to LC-39 Pad A.

The VAB is 526 feet (160.3 m) tall, 716 feet (218.2 m) long and 518 feet (157.9 m) wide. It covers 8 acres (3 ha), and encloses 129,428,000 cubic feet (3,665,000 cubic meters) of space. The building has 10,000 pounds of air conditioning equipment including 125 ventilators on the roof supported by four large air handlers (four cylindrical structures west of the building) to keep moisture under control. Air in the building can be completely replaced every hour. The interior volume of the building is so vast that it has its own weather, including "rain clouds form below the ceiling on very humid days", which the moisture reduction systems are designed to minimize. Located in Florida, the building was constructed to withstand hurricanes and tropical storms with a foundation consisting of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 4,225 steel rods driven 160 feet into limestone bedrock.

There are four entries to the bays located inside the building, which are the four largest doors in the world. Each door is 456 feet (139.0 m) high and takes 45 minutes to completely open or close. The north entry that leads to the transfer aisle was widened by 40 feet (12.2 m), to allow entry of the orbiter. A central slot at the center of the north entry allows for passage of the orbiter's vertical stabilizer. To lift the components of the Space Transportation System, the VAB houses five overhead bridge cranes, including 2 capable of lifting 250 tons, and 136 other lifting devices.

The American flag painted on the building was the largest in the world when added in 1976 as part of United States Bicentennial celebrations, along with the star logo of the anniversary, later replaced by the NASA logo in 1998. It is 209 feet (63.7 m) high, and 110 feet (33.5 m) wide. Each of the stars on the flag is 6 feet (1.83 m) across, the blue field is the size of a regulation basketball court, and the each of the stripes is 9 feet (2.74 m) wide, the width of a standard road lane. Work began in early 2007 to restore the exterior paint on the immense facility. Special attention was paid to the enormous American flag and NASA "meatball" logo. The work repaired visible damage from years of storms and weathering. The flag and logo had been previously repainted in 1998 for NASA's 40th anniversary. The most extensive exterior damage occurred during the storm season of 2004, when Hurricane Frances blew off 850 14 × 6 foot aluminum panels from the building, resulting in about 40,000 square feet (3,700 m 2) of new openings in the sides. Twenty five additional panels were blown off the east side by the winds from Hurricane Jeanne just three weeks later. Earlier in the season, Hurricane Charley caused significant but less serious damage, estimated to cost $700,000. Damage caused by these hurricanes was still visible in 2007. Some of these panels are "punch-outs", designed to detach from the VAB when a large pressure differential is created on the outside vs. the inside. This allows for equalization, and helps protect the structural integrity of the building during rapid changes in pressure such as in tropical cyclones.

It is expected that, starting in 2008-2009, the Vehicle Assembly Building will begin a transition for the assembly and processing of both the Space Shuttle and the Shuttle Derived Ares I crew launch vehicle for the upcoming Constellation Program. After the Shuttle's retirement in 2010, the VAB would become the assembly facility for both the Ares I, and the unmanned heavy lift Ares V launcher for the return to the Moon in 2018.

Building Activity

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