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Building A Tribute To Space Legends In Our Backyard

When the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida wanted to build the new Heroes And Legends Featuring The United States Astronaut Hall of Fame opened in September 2016, they wanted an exhibit that pays tribute to the astronauts who showed no fear during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. Part of the tribute pays respect to the successful X-15 jet plane and the brave pilots that not only broke speed and altitude still-active records but is known as the greatest contributor to the development of those three space exploration programs.

Entech Innovative Engineering worked with the visitor complex’s vendor, Delaware North, to design, fabricate and install a walkway canopy made of Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic, steel columns, and the lead section of the ramp resembling the mighty X-15. In October 1967, William Knight flew the legendary jet at Mach 6.7 at 102,100 feet (31,120 meters) going 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h).

Kennedy Space Center walkway canopy

Since budget is a large component of these type of projects, the specialty-engineering company worked with the Delaware North project manager on a feasible solution for the canopy and X-15 portion of the entrance. It was determined fiberglass and steel materials would make the most sense for a long-term, durable solution for these areas, including railings along both canopy sides and a cable raceway along the center of the overhead canopy.

When deciding to go with the fiberglass for the roof structure of the ramp, it was imperative that only two molds were utilized to keep this job cost within the budget. The straight area was the easy one to get into a single mold.

The helical area of the ramp was more of a challenge and had a multitude of CADD geometry studies performed to make sure it could be completed with one mold. The geometry study took a deeper dive as Entech knew they had to deliver these pieces on the back of a flatbed truck and only had so much room when it came to height and width to drive on the roads that would take them to the job site.

Kennedy Space Center walkway canopy

All of these factors were a challenge to the technical design and engineering team at Entech, but one that was handled superbly.

With the properties of fiberglass everchanging based on what mat is used, what the layup schedule is, how it is laid up, and so many other factors, Entech had to make sure this fiberglass would hold up to the loading this roof would endure over a long period. To accomplish this, Entech developed a layup schedule that consisted of gel coat, 1.5 OZ. chopped mat and many layers of 1708.

Kennedy Space Center walkway canopy

The engineering team then took multiple coupons of this fiberglass approximately 22” x 4” x ½” thick and calculated the inertia and section modulus. The team went on to evaluate 10 of these coupons using a strength test machine. This caused the coupons to deflect and allowed Entech to study the varying loads from 0 pounds to 200 pounds.

This study gave the engineering team a method to understand the modulus of elasticity and information to solve how much stress these coupons could withstand. With all of the new information, Entech Innovative was excited to learn this layup schedule was going to be feasible for the roof of this canopy structure.

The end result of the ramp project is a heartbeat-racing journey complete with a 4D multisensory theater, Redstone rocket, and Gemini 9 capsule, all in Entech Innovative’s own Brevard county backyard.

Kennedy Space Center walkway canopy


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