With only months between the Space Shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope and the first flight of NASA's Ares I crew launch vehicle, Kennedy Space Center is working to keep changes to launch complex 39B to a minimum so it can accommodate both vehicles.

During the Hubble repair flight, scheduled for September 2008, a second Shuttle will be on standby to launch a rescue mission from pad 39B. Seven months later, in 2009, the same complex is to launch the Ares I-1 demonstration flight.

As a result, changes to Shuttle launch complex 39B to accommodate the Ares I-1 are planned to be short term, as the final configuration for Ares I operational flights will be significantly different.

Short-term alterations focus on the 105m (347ft)-tall fixed service structure, which has three swing arms that link to the Shuttle. Changes for Ares I-1 could see the Shuttle external tank gaseous oxygen vent swing arm modified for Ares I interstage and upper-stage access.

The solid rocket booster access platform on the existing rotating service structure could be modified to provide access to the safe and arm functions on the pyrotechnic devices located on Ares I-1 first stage's fourth and fifth segments. A spare arm at Kennedy would be used to add a new arm for Ares I forward skirt access.

Beyond the Ares I-1 launch, NASA is planning more substantial changes. "We have to bring everything up for a 40-year lifespan. We are waiting for final design of the Ares I upper stage for [its] sound suppression system," Kennedy's Constellation project office director John Talone told Flight International at the end of 2006.

Refurbishment work to ensure pad 39B can last for four more decades includes reconditioning of its flame deflector.

In addition, the design of the vehicle stabilisation damper system has to be finalised, and a decision needs to be made about what to do about flame holes in the mobile launch platform.

Source: Flight International