Tag Archives: KSC

Practicing with an Iron Rocket

Rocket science isn’t easy. Rockets are basically complex systems of other complex systems that all have to work together perfectly. Also, they’re highly explosive. So creating a brand new rocket can take a while. It’s careful and methodical work.

Take SLS, or the Space Launch System. (Yeah, I know it’s a terrible name. That’s not under my control, though.) SLS is going to replace the retired Space Shuttle. It will loft humans and spacecraft into low earth orbit and beyond.

SLS was funded starting in late 2010 and it’s first uncrewed test flight called Artemis 1, as of this writing, is scheduled to launch in late 2020. A lot of smart people will argue about why it took so long and who is at fault. But a lot of that time is simply due to the fact that rocket science isn’t easy.

All that to say, by the time the actual rocket arrives at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida from the factory at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, there won’t really be any time to spare. All the equipment and facilities and personnel at KSC will need to be ready to support. So we’ve been testing and rehearsing and practicing.

NASA has even built an Iron Rocket called the SLS Core Stage Pathfinder to practice with and to verify and certify all of our facilities, our equipment, and our processes and personnel. It arrived recently onboard a barge … the same barge that will deliver the real core stage.

Since it’s arrival, we’ve performed and practiced several different types of operations with this Iron Rocket inside the giant Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). These pretty awesome 360 degree videos show us lifting it up inside the VAB and then lowering it down into its resting place on the mobile launcher. Unless you’re watching these videos with a Virtual Reality rig, just click and drag your mouse to change the point of view! It feels like you are right there inside the VAB with the workers!

Thanks for your interest!


What was Kurt doing 25 years ago?

During the summer of 1994, I had recently graduated from college with my Electrical Engineering degree and I was now working full time at NASA/KSC in Florida. That summer I was spending time with other groups at KSC in an effort to learn more about the entire KSC organization. I was also working on a special project for my own group.

Here are the statuses that I submitted each week to let my boss know what I was doing and how I was doing. It’s kinda fun to look back 25 years and remember exactly what I was doing back then.

June 16, 1994

When I came to work on Monday, my supervisor, Gary Bassett explained to me what he wanted me to work on. He needed me to put all my efforts, at least initially, into getting our video lab back in working order. The new video-computer system has been in place for almost a year and has been very intermittent and unreliable since its initial installation. The system has many different components that need to work together, instead they seem to be fighting each other all the time.

I got the video-computer system’s ATVista card working so we could take photographs of the fathers and sons that came through the labs during KSC Son’s Day, which was Tuesday. I spent most of the week troubleshooting the video-computer system which stopped printing to the Kodak XL7700 printer since a new motherboard and SCSI card were installed a few weeks ago. I also got a computer desk and three workbenches moved into the lab and started setting up my new work area.

June 24, 1994

During the early part of this week, I got the video/computer system working again by installing new Twain drivers for the Kodak DCS-200 digital camera and by installing updated print drivers for the Kodak 7700 printer. A network startup problem was also corrected by changing the IRQ settings on the communication card. I’m in the process of troubleshooting a problem that presented itself in the RIO image design software.

This week I contacted someone at Johnson Space Center (JSC) who can fairly easily get an experiment flown on NASA’s KC-135 Zero-G simulation airplane. Gary and I are trying to make a decision between two different ATP projects. One would fly a fuse-blowing experiment on NASA’s KC-135 to find out if there’s a difference between fuses blowing at 1-G and zero-G.

The other project would entail getting a system working in which the engineer’s Failure Analysis Reports would get electronically published on the World Wide Web (WWW) system on the internet and also be easily found by searching the Wide-Area Information Servers (WAIS) database system which is also on the internet.

July 1, 1994

The RIO problem encountered last week was traced to a video synchronization inconsistency which was due to an incorrect connection on the RGB monitor. I attended the orientation session for the ATP Tours on Tuesday and got to meet all the other ATP’ers.

The Electronic Document (E-Doc) Project was chosen as my ATP project and Bill Dearing was chosen as my mentor. I started working on my project by becoming more familiar with the World Wide Web. I read a document titled ‘A Beginner’s Guide to HTML’ that helped me start writing HyperText Markup Language (HTML) files which can be read and displayed by www servers all around the world. I practiced writing documents and composed ‘Kurt’s Home Page’ which has many photos and subdocuments which are HyperText-linked to each other.

July 8, 1994

This week I was in charge of a burn-test in the lab. I worked with technicians and the job requester to get the test set up and running. We ran three burn-tests on a SpaceLab Terminal Junction Box by running excessive current through it to catch it on fire and observe the flame propagation. The tests went well.

On Thursday afternoon, I attended a WAIS meeting along with my supervisor and my mentor. We discussed ways that we might be able to get our Failure Analysis Reports searchable using the WAIS database and also viewable to someone who wanted to view them. I started some HTML documents on the Materials Science Labs so that we can get an MSL Home Page and corresponding sub-pages viewable on the WWW.

I am currently troubleshooting a file conversion problem which presented itself when we started getting pictures from our new digital still camera. This week I also searched the Web to find more documentation on the WWW and also HTML pages. I found a number of documents and downloaded them and am currently studying them. I’m also searching for more information on WAIS systems.

July 14, 1994

With the burn-test over with, I got a good chunk of the MSL Web pages completed this week. I scanned in images to try and decide on a standard for images on my Web pages. I also toyed around with a menu driven interface for accessing pages on the Web and did have some luck.

July 22, 1994

All week was spent in the ‘Introduction to C Programming’ Class.

July 29, 1994

This week was spent on a Diverse Work Assignment (DWA) with Jim Dumoulin and his Artificial Intelligence/Software Research group which is in the Information Systems Division of the Payload Management and Operations Directorate. He taught me about the Payload Data Management System (PDMS) and how it works to get the day to day information and to process a payload into one central computer system for every user to access.

Jim showed me the wonderful world of software development by fixing a few ‘bugs’ in the WinVN newsreader program which his group helped develop. He showed me how he gets information into his Web server and how he wrote PERL scripts to translate text into linked hypertext documents. By the end of the week, Jim helped me get my Web server up and running to serve documents to users on Center.

August 5, 1994

I finished my Individual Development Plan (IDP) early this week and acquired a PC-workstation from my supervisor to do my work on. I spent a few days getting the PC configured correctly and getting the software loaded and working properly.

I experimented this week with different screen capturing schemes so I can capture and print Mosaic screens. For presentations and meetings, I will print these screens on our Kodak XL7700 printer.

I also looked around the Web quite a bit to find out how different administrators are doing searches of their documents. I’m interested in how the other NASA centers are searching and serving documents to NASA centers and also to the public. I sent E-mail to some NASA people to find out some specifics about their current document search system. I’m awaiting a reply.

August 12, 1994

Earlier this week, I supported two ‘hot jobs’ in the lab by taking digital photographs and by getting them onto MSL’s anonymous FTP site. I spent a lot of time on the phone to Downey, CA and JSC helping people download files from our site.

This week was my week in Pete Clements’ Networks group. Pete and I couldn’t get together until Wednesday, however. I spent one day in the Network Control Center (NCC) with Steve DeWitt. I got an introduction to bridges and routers and got to modify access lists and work some trouble tickets. I spent Thursday and Friday in Bob Raymond’s group where they do hands-on hardware and software configuration of their network users.

I attended three different training sessions: two were for new PON Server Administrators and one was for new Network LAN Administrators. This was a very productive and educational week. I read the following material this week: Network and Electronic Mail User’s Guide; Handouts on Excelan Training Course

August 19, 1994

I spent this week in the Data Processing and Sofware Systems Section of the Digital Guidance and Control Branch in the Vehicle Engineering Directorate. Scott Chandler, the Section Chief, took me around to the different working areas of his group: LCC Firing Rooms, VAB Labs, and offices in the OSB.

I spent some time in Firing Room # 1 observing the loading of software onto the orbiter’s Mass Memory Units (MMU’s) and also the transitioning of the orbiter’s General Purpose Computers (GPC’s) from a ground testing configuration to a flight configuration. I also got a tour of the Kennedy Avionics Test Site (KATS) laboratory where they do off-line testing and configuration of GPC’s, displays and electronics, MDM’s and other hardware related to the DPS System. I attended a status meeting for second-level managers with Scott, and then spent some time in the Main Engine shop in the VAB to observe a main engine system power-up and valve test.

The mission scheduled to launch this week had a main engine abort on the pad and I went into Firing Room # 1 for a while to observe the pad close-outs of each system being performed. I also watched a MMU load / verify from the console in Firing Room # 4 . And finally, on Friday, I went back to the KATS lab to see a new MMU simulation computer being tested for applications in the lab.

I had some time in-between testing to read some material: DPS (Hardware and Systems Software) Training Manual; Design of an Anonymous FTP Site (LTRS); Zen and the Art of the Internet; XV User’s Guide

August 26, 1994

The first half of this week was spent with Bev Merrilles in the Personnel Offices. I attended a staff meeting with Bev after getting an overview of the Human Resources Management Directorate and their recent reorganization. I met all the personnel in the Training Section and spent a day with them. I also spent an afternoon with one of Marge Elrod’s personnel teams which are the heart of the personnel office. All actions get finalized through this office.

I spent another day with Ken Aguilar working on Special Programs and Labor Relations and attended a meeting with Chris Beidel concerning possible changes to the co-op program.

Thursday and Friday was spent in the ‘Effective Communications’ class in the training auditorium. .

September 1, 1994

I spent this week with Jose Garcia in the Electrical and Telecommunications Systems Division of the Vehicle Engineering Directorate. Most of my time was spent in Mike Kraus’s Electrical Systems Section. I got trained for crew cabin access and payload bay access by watching video courses but didn’t get the chance to enter either area this week.

I attended a Pyrotechnic Initiator Circuit ( PIC ) test in Firing Room # 4 where a problem presented itself and an IPR had to be written and the test was aborted. I spent a couple of days in the KATS Lab where the engineers were testing a new Engineering Main Events Controller (EMEC) by programming the UBIC computer to talk to it and read data back to tape.

I read ‘Learning Perl’ this week which is a UNIX based programming language. This programming experience will help me to automate some of the tedious tasks of keeping the Web server up to date.

September 9, 1994

Due to the Labor Day holiday and one sick day, I was only in the lab two days this week. I reformatted some of my old Weekly Notes that were done on Alis and gave Bill copies of all my Notes to date so he could turn them in for my 3-month evaluation which is due on Tuesday. I sent an MSL Weekly Note to Gary to sum up my work and advertise my Web Pages. I made an (ATP) IDP template and retyped my (ATP) IDP for Bill to turn in with my evaluation.

September 16, 1994

This week was spent with Larry Ellis who is the Deputy Director of the Launch & Landing Projects Division of the Shuttle Management & Operations Directorate. This gave me the opportunity to see first-hand what a Projects Office does.

We attended a project demonstration by the Mitre company which is a non-profit, non-competitive Systems Engineering & Research Organization which often does work for NASA, NOAA, EPA, and other government agencies. Mitre’s been studying NASA’s Shuttle Processing System and trying to improve and streamline it to save the government money and resources.

I spent a few days with Brian Harris who is the Chief of the LLP Integration Office. LLP reports directly to Brewster Shaw in the Space Shuttle Program Office in Houston. We sat in quite a few teleconferences this week which were headed up by Brewster Shaw who is an ex-astronaut. One telecon on Wednesday was between Mission Management Teams where each system manager talked about their problems that affected the mission currently in orbit.

Larry Ellis is the Environmental Officer for LLP and we attended many meetings dealing with environmental issues. On Thursday morning, we attended a monthly Dredging Project Meeting. In early 1997, the northern half of the river will be dredged again so as to prevent the External Tank Barge from running aground. Many expensive environmental surveys have to be studied and implemented to keep from impacting the environment.

Also on Thursday, I attended three Shuttle Program Planning Board teleconferences and a meeting to take care of some problems that occur when you upgrade the Space Shuttle Main Engine Combustion Chambers.

We spent quite a bit of time on Friday talking about the current problems with NASA’s Technology Transfer Program and discussing ways to improve the program without impacting NASA’s budget concerns.

Larry impressed me as a great ‘Idea Man’ and it was a terrific learning experience working beside him this week

September 23, 1994

I spent this week with Jim Sudermann who is the head of the Experiments Test Section of the Systems Engineering and Experiments Division of the Payload Flight Operations Directorate. Most of the week was spent in the Payload Checkout Unit Control Rooms on the third floor of the O&C Building which is where they simulate the SpaceLab computers and the orbiter itself for the experiments they’re processing.

I sat in on a demonstration of their new Data Logging and Retrieval System which was just delivered and set up. The last half of the week was spent preparing for Astro-II testing which started on Friday morning. Two very unique data buffer boxes were not working correctly. One was sent to a repair shop and the other one was being trouble-shot by CS-EED personnel. Progress was made in troubleshooting, but the other box was repaired in time to use it for Astro-II testing on Friday. I also watched a complete software load of the system.

September 30, 1994

I spent this week in Bill Helms’ laboratories in the EDL and LETF buildings. Mr. Helms is the Chief of the Instrumentation and Controls Systems Division of the Electronic Engineering Division of DE. He oversees the Transducer Lab, Data Acquisition Lab, Hazardous Gas Detection Lab, Optical & Acoustic Lab, Special Instrumentation Lab, Toxic Vapor Detection Lab, Contamination Monitoring & Control Lab, and the Control Systems Lab.

These offices have the unique authority to authorize the use of GSE in any area at KSC. They can take off-the-shelf items and qualify them for use after testing them. They sometimes systems-engineer different off-the-shelf items together into a package or build around an existing item to improve upon or make it work specifically for KSC’s needs. In special cases, they build items up from the component level because they’re so specialized that there’s nothing in industry that can be even partially used.

I spent about a day and a half in the Transducer Lab and the Data Acquisition Lab and another day and a half in the Special Instrumentation Lab, Optics Lab, and the Hazardous Gas Lab.

October 7, 1994

This week was spent with Charles Tucker who is Chief of the Data Systems group of the Communications Division in the Ground Engineering Directorate in Shuttle. This group is in charge of all the networking cables/fiber and the networking hardware like bridges/routers/hubs and they also handle the Network Control Center for Shuttle. They provide connectivity for about 1300 users.

I attended many status meetings on various projects and got extensive tours of some of the facilities this week. I spent quite a bit of time in the Control Distribution & Switching Center (CD&SC) and also the VAB repeater facility and I also saw the network center in the OSB. Most of their systems in Shuttle are premise wired where they run two data lines, phone lines, and cable TV lines to a box by each desk in the area.

I learned a lot about this premise wiring system this week, including the design process and the implementation of the design. I attended a lot of planning and scheduling meetings and design reviews for the Integrated Work Control System (IWCS) project.

October 14, 1994

Monday was a holiday. I attended Hazardous Waste Training earlier this week and also attended a NASA WebMaster’s ViTS meeting on Thursday.

I made an appointment with Shawn Riley and Richard Hall to go over the WAISifying process with some sample reports on the DE-VAX.

I got the photos from some of the sample reports scanned in this week and am struggling with WORD limitations that don’t allow me to paste all the images into the sample document. I got two of the five sample documents completed this week.

October 21, 1994

I was sick two days this week, but still managed to get photos scanned from another sample report and also get all my MSL Personnel pages automated with a Perl Script by finishing an MSL Personnel Database.

I spent more time trying to get pictures linked to documents as opposed to just pasting them there and ran into more trouble. Bill talked with the ULead people to try and straighten out some of these problems.

I spent quite a bit of time late in the week getting the video lab reconfigured for editing of tapes. This was done in preparation for a hot job which is supposed to come into the labs early next week

October 28, 1994

I fixed my sample page on the Web this week and added the PDF’s and PS’s for the four sample documents that were complete.

I browsed the LTRS system for documents and downloaded and read the following: Electronic Document Distribution:Design of the Anonymous FTP Langley Technical Report Server; World Wide Web Implementation of the Langley Technical Report Server; The World Wide Web & Technology Transfer at NASA Langley Research Center; A Comparison of Internet Resource Discovery Approaches; Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) Archive System.

I got my Web pages transferred to the Development Area on the DE-VAX and made sure there weren’t any obvious problems. I’m still waiting on Perl for the VAX so that I can test out my automated personnel page script.

I sent my ATP Project Plan to Steve Chance on Friday afternoon.

November 4, 1994

I finished up the last of five sample reports this week, but I had to resample the photographs to get them small enough for MS-Word to handle them. I copied postscript and PDF forms of the sample reports to a WAIS directory on the anonymous FTP site for retrieval by the WAIS lookup engine. I also prepared refer citations for each report to be sent to Langley Research Center and WAISified.

Shawn Riley got Perl running on the DEVAX and after some slight modifications, my script that makes all the personnel pages was running without problems.

November 10, 1994

I spent the first part of the week helping the Physical Testing group prepare for a chamber test on some temperature probes from the Mobile Launcher Platform.

I also downloaded and installed a bunch of software on the Macintosh to get it set up to test out our Web pages. I spent some time working with PowerPoint to become familiar with the program, so I could get started on my presentation next week.

I added some finishing dates to my ATP IDP and printed out all my Weekly Notes for my final evaluation which is due on Monday.

Michael Nelson at Langley received our refer citations late this week and WAISified them. Now our WAIS search demo is working from the MSL Web pages.


So that’s basically what I did at NASA for my first 5 months as a full time non-intern employee! And the rest is history! Thanks for your interest! Kurt

My Transformers 3 filming experience at NASA KSC (with photos)

I hope I don’t get in trouble for posting photos. I figure now that the movie is out all the closed set stuff is overcome by events.  Here’s hoping I don’t get sued.

Back in the Fall of 2010, Michael Bay and his Transformers 3 crew came to central Florida to film for one full week inside the gates of NASA at the Kennedy Space Center. There was an open casting call for badged KSC employees so myself and about 600 of my coworkers applied and got our photos taken by the casting company. The day I was called to be an extra, I was unable to do it due to some critical work meetings that I could not get out of. Sadly they never called me again.  I guess that was my only chance to be an extra in the film.

Since I have past experience working with NASA Public Affairs at special events and for past motion picture filming, I was able to work with Public Affairs for a couple of days as an escort. A Public Affairs escort basically babysits the film crew and answers their questions and makes sure they don’t do anything they’re not supposed to do. My first day working for Public Affairs was the first day of actual T3 filming at KSC. The crew was setting up for a scene in the center transfer aisle inside the huge Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). For a while I was tasked to be a bouncer at the doors to the VAB to make sure every crew member and extra had the proper badges and such. It was hard because I had to turn away real KSC workers. It was a closed movie set and only cast and crew were allowed in certain places and KSC workers were around and they were trying to catch a glimpse of the stars and the sets and such.

After the morning inrush of film crew settled down I was able to stroll around the VAB transfer aisle and look at the set being put together and lit. The whole transfer aisle of the VAB was going to be used and so the workers had set out a bunch of big lifting equipment and such in the aisle. Someone on the Internet posted a security camera photo of the area onto a public NASA forum:


[image source]

In the middle of the aisle they had set up a headquarters or a lab looking movie set with some computer equipment and displays.  Here’s another security camera snapshot of the set:


[image source]

While working in various places in the VAB transfer aisle that morning, I saw the main actor, Shia LaBeouf, walking around wasting time and getting mic’d and warming up for his first scene. I also saw his stunt double hanging around dressed the exact same as him and rehearsing some stunt moves. Shia is way skinnier than he appears on screen. I suppose this could be said for all TV and film actors, though.  I chose not to take any photos of Shia or any of the cast that I came across.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.  And Shia looked like he was pretty serious and focused getting ready for his scene.  Here is a photo I took in the general direction of the VAB aisle set, though:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

About mid morning, I got a call on the radio to go to the VAB front gate to escort the director, Michael Bay, onto his set. He has a reputation for being pretty mean, but he was plenty nice to me. He had a rolling suitcase in one hand and coffee in the other hand. When the NASA public affairs person introduced him to me, he let go of his suitcase and shook my hand and said “Hi, nice to meet you”. Of course this was the morning of the first day of shooting at KSC, so why wouldn’t the guy be in a good mood.

He did not have an entourage with him … they were all inside the VAB, I suppose. As Michael Bay and I walked across the parking lot towards the VAB he said it’s been 11 years since he was at KSC. He said the movie Armageddon was his last trip to KSC. He directed that movie too, along with Pearl Harbor, The Rock, and Bad Boys. I said something like “Oh, you haven’t been back since Armageddon?” and he said no. Then I asked if he had just gotten off a plane this morning and he said yes, but then he said he came from Miami this morning, not California. He mentioned that he had a house in California and a house in Miami. I said I had read that on wikipedia … showing how much of a geek I really was. Oops. That comment didn’t seem to phase him, though. By now we were walking up to the big open door of the huge VAB and he looks up at the VAB and says “This is gonna be cool in 3D”. I smiled and agreed. At that time the entertainment press and bloggers were still arguing on the Internet about whether Michael Bay was really going to film in 3D or not.

I walked him to the headquarters/lab set and he got to work. There were assistant directors and lighting people and a bunch of other folks working on the set and showing the director what they had done. About an hour later the extras were brought in. 150 in all for the VAB shot. They were a mix of military commanders and SWAT (NEST is what they call it in the Transformer world) people. Back at the front gate of the VAB, the crew kept bringing in equipment and vehicles. They brought in white SUVs that were dressed like NASA security. They brought in some little NEST special forces vehicles with a fake machine gun mounted on top.  Here are a couple photos I took of the NEST Hummer vehicles:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

And lastly, they brought in the whole collection of Autobots. I don’t know all their names, but I saw Optimus Prime, the big semi truck. Bumblebee, the yellow Camaro. Ironhide, the big black truck. Ratchet, the brightly colored emergency vehicle hummer.  And there was a red Ferrari that is rumored to be a new Autobot for this movie. The coolest autobot to look at was probably Sideswipe, which is a silver corvette stingray. In this movie, Sideswipe is a convertible.


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

Although The Wreckers are also pretty cool looking. These guys are three NASCAR chassis with all sorts of robot looking attachments and mods.  I did not get a decent photo of the Wreckers.

Here is a security camera snapshot showing the crew using the Pursuit Systems camera boom car inside the VAB.  They used the camera boom car to shoot the scene where the actors were walking into the VAB from the North doors.


[image source]

I am always fascinated by all the equipment that movie crews use to film a scene.  Here is a security camera snapshot showing a large lighting crane that they used while filming inside the VAB.  It’s basically a big stadium style light grid with a big white vinyl or similar diffuser mounted in front of it:


[image source]

Here is a better photo of the Pursuit Systems camera boom car that I took a couple days later:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

Here is a photo of Optimus Prime with some other misc extra vehicles in the background.  They’re sitting in a parking lot in front of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF):


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

Here is a better photo of Optimus in front of the OPF:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

When they were filming there at the headquarters/lab set inside the VAB, one of the assistant directors came up to me and asked if I could help scare away some KSC workers that were hanging around outside. I did that and then walked around the back of the VAB to see if there were any other workers trying to get a peek at the filming. All the Autobots were parked back there and I had to scare away some more workers. I also noticed some extras and some assistant directors standing around outside the back side of the VAB and they were waiting for the cameras to roll. I saw John Turturro who plays the wacky Sector 7 secret government agency guy, Agent Simmons. He was sitting in a motorized wheelchair for this particular scene and his assistant had a neck brace.  Here’s another security camera snapshot that was posted that day:


[image source]

I had to leave for a few hours for some meetings and when I came back NASA Public Affairs put me at the VAB front gate to make sure all the film crew vehicles that were trying to get in had the right placards displayed. Luck had it that at this time the film crew was out in the parking lot in front of the VAB filming a chase scene from around the side of the VAB into the front parking lot, although they didn’t go over 25 mph. I had to block the gate to make sure no vehicles tried to enter while that scene was being filmed. That was pretty cool to see, but the scene did not make it into the film.  Here’s a photo I snapped after the scene was finished.  You can see Optimus Prime complete with trailer and the camera boom car:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

Then the crew threw together a new chase scene that started about two blocks away from the VAB and ended with the whole convoy tearing through the open front gate of the VAB. I got to watch this scene shot about 4 times. They did it right at dusk as the sun was starting to go down. Here is a video that some KSC employee (not me) posted on YouTube.


The short video shows the black camera boom chase car in front, then Bumblebee, the red Ferrari, Sideswipe, a new Autobot that I forget the name of, The NASCAR Wreckers, Ratchet, and last but not least Optimus Prime with trailer, all rolling out for the scene.  This scene also did not make it into the movie, but it was cool to watch.  I watched them film this scene about three or four times from the VAB front gate.  The convoy raced right past us.  I’m guessing that if us people who were standing there watching this scene being filmed would probably just be digitally erased from the footage for the film.

A couple days later I helped Public Affairs again and was tasked to escort the film crew while they worked at the Launch Control Center (LCC).  Here is a photo I took of director, Michael Bay, and his assistants walking around the LCC looking at the VAB and framing up a potential shot.  Michael Bay is the one in the red cap:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

They then set up a shot in front of the LCC with some NEST Hummer vehicles zooming by the gate and some extras running across the street and then Shia and John T meeting near the turnstiles and performing some dialog.  They must have shot this scene close to ten times to get it right.  Most of the set up and fluff was cut and just the minimal dialog made it into the movie, though.  Here is a photo I took of the extras getting a briefing before the scene started filming.  In the background you can see trucks and film lights and equipment.


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

Here is a photo of the actual scene being shot in front of the LCC.  You can see a NEST Hummer vehicle with the machine gun manned and behind that you can see a camera boom and also a mic boom.  And the group of people are extras getting ready to run across the street towards the turnstiles.


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

When they were done filming at the LCC, they quickly moved their equipment to the countdown clock at the press site for a vintage scene where there is a crowd watching the Apollo 11 moon launch.  They had some vintage cars and a group of extras in vintage clothes and vintage sunglasses.  They even had vintage lawn chairs in the scene.  During the set up of the scene director, Michael Bay, wanted the countdown clock to count down during the scene but the timing guys were having trouble getting the clock to work.  I played interference.  I talked to the timing guys on the radio while the scene was being set up and rehearsed.  Eventually I had to tell Michael Bay that the clock was not going to work.  He laughed it off and made a joke that maybe he should buy NASA a new clock.  All his crew laughed and so did I.  I don’t recall if the value of the ticking countdown clock actually showed up in the final edit of the film, though.  If it did, it was digitally painted there.

Here’s a photo I took of the extras while the crew were placing them and handing out vintage accessories:


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

And here is my last photo.  It’s the same scene, but you can see the 3D camera on its boom pretty well and you can see director, Michael Bay, framing up his shot.  He’s there in the red cap.


[photo by Kurt W. Leucht]

I was able to help Public Affairs one other day, but I didn’t get any photos.  It was inside the high bay of the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF).  It was just a little bit of dialog with some lab equipment in the background.  A very short scene in the movie, but it took about a half day to shoot it.

I was not able to help out during the filming days out at the launch pad nor during the day they shot inside the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF).  But those scenes are very prominent in the movie.

Well, that’s it for my Transformers 3 filming experience.  Hope you enjoyed it.


Ares I-X flight test launches successfully!

Unless you’re living under a rock, you probably heard that NASA launched a new rocket today.  Below are some photos from in and around the NASA Press Site and also some video of the launch that I took today.  The video also contains some decent manatee footage.  There are usually manatees hanging around the turn basin there near the Press Site.

The Ares I is intended to replace the Space Shuttle for launching astronauts into space after it retires in the next year or so.  Today’s launch, dubbed the I-X mission, was an unmanned flight test of this new rocket.  Not only was it unmanned, but the whole upper stage was fake and just dropped into the ocean after separation.  But we’re taking baby steps here, people.  Don’t want to bite off more than we can chew.  🙂

Here’s the video that I took.

And here are some photos.  Click on any photo for a full sized version.


Obligatory photo of the countdown clock with the launch vehicle in the background.  It was 5am when I arrived at the Press Site this morning.  Way way earlier than my normal arrival time.


Inside the NASA Press Site where they show various camera views of the launch vehicle and they also have some cool large models of the Ares I and also the future Ares V heavy lift cargo vehicle.  These models are like 7 or 8 feet tall.


Various news channels shoot interviews all day long here at the NASA Press Site.  Here you can see the Air Force weather officer getting some time on camera with Fox 35.


NASA TV showed some beautiful sunrise video …


… so I went outside to see it for myself.


Live trucks lined up in the NASA Press Site parking lot. You can see the rocket in amongst the transmission towers.


The NASA Press Site is about 3.5 miles from the launch pad.  You can see the white rocket and the three really tall lightning towers around the launch pad.  These towers were built especially for the Ares I program.


Here are the folks from NASA Edge recording their show.  NASA Edge is a cool and hip educational program on NASA TV. You should check it out. While you’re there, be sure to also check out NASA-360, which is another cool educational program that NASA produces.

Ares I-X test flight rolls out to the launch pad

History was made tonight and I was there. It was pretty cool to witness the rollout of the Ares I-X test flight rocket first hand. Ares I is designed to replace the Shuttle for getting astronauts into orbit. Enough talk … here are the photos that I took and also a short edited video (click for larger versions of the photos):

This is the employee signature banner for Ares I-X.  Each flight gets a banner that is displayed along with the vehicle and these banners are signed by KSC employees who have worked on that mission.  I worked on the ground control system for the Ares I-X mission, so I made sure I signed this banner.  I wonder if you can find my signature…

Can you find my signature now?

How about now?

The Ares I-X rocket doesn’t look terribly huge inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, but it’s nearly as tall as the Saturn V rockets that we used to go to the moon during the Apollo program.

Excitement is in the air as the new big rocket emerges from the VAB.

Isn’t she big and beautiful!

Not symmetrical by design.  We’re re-using a Shuttle mobile launcher platform for this flight, which has two holes for solid rocket booster exhaust.  So we mounted the Ares I-X rocket over one of the two SRB holes in the platform.

Glowing in the spotlights.

The spotlights were very bat-symbol-like.  I didn’t get a good photo of it, but there was enough moisture in the air to clearly see the rocket’s silhouette projected big and bold up into the sky.  It was quite impressive.

Obligatory photo of me standing in front of the rocket for the scrapbook.

Here is the video I took: