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Things are a-changing over at the Kennedy Space Center launch complex. The first lightning tower for the Ares rockets has been completed, dwarfing all the other structures on pad 39B. The tower is for the new lightning protection system for the Constellation Program. Other towers are being constructed at left and behind the service structures on the pad. Each of the three new lightning towers will be 152 meters (500 feet) tall with an additional 30 meter (100-foot) fiberglass mast atop supporting a catenary, or overhead wire system. This compares to the height of the shuttle Fixed Service Structure at 105.7 meters (347ft) to the top of the lightning mast. The new and improved lightning protection system allows for the taller height of the Ares I rocket compared to the space shuttle. Pad 39B will be the site of the first Ares vehicle launch, including the Ares I-X test flight that is targeted for July 2009. See image below for what the completed system will look like.
This is an artist’s rendition of what the new lightning protection system being built at Launch Pad 39B will look like when fully completed. The launch pad will also be modified to support future launches of Ares and Orion spacecraft.