Mechanical engineering students from Louisiana State University joined engineers and scientists at Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the students toured the facility to have a look at the flame trench. They went inside the pad structure to the area inside the flame deflector which divides the flame trench and funnels exhaust away from a shuttle at liftoff. The flame deflector, which is about 40-feet tall, is essentially hollow inside and braced by steel beams. The students signed up to help designers looking for new, flame and vibration-resistant materials to line the trench. The students are to build a scaled-down version of the flame trench that Kennedy's scientists can use to try out sample materials for the trench. If the samples work in the lab, they can be tried out in the real flame trenches at Launch Pad 39A and 39B.
The launch pad has been refurbished extensively and work is continuing to modify the pad to support a variety of launch vehicles in the future. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann