If the Vehicle Assembly Building is the
heart of Launch Complex 39, then the Launch Control Center is its brain.
The Center is a four-story building connected to the east side of the
Vehicle Assembly Building by an elevated, enclosed bridge.
The Launch Control Center contains two
primary and two backup firing rooms. Each is equipped with the Launch
Processing System -- an automated computer-operated system -- which monitors
and controls Shuttle assembly, checkout and launch operations.
Largely because of the Launch Processing
System, the countdown for a Space Shuttle launch (excluding built-in
holds) takes only about 43 hours, compared to more than 80 hours needed
for the earlier Apollo/Saturn flights.
Also, use of the Launch Processing System
requires only approximately 225-230 persons in the firing room as compared
to some 450 people needed for Apollo manned missions.
Mission responsibility transfers to Mission
Control Center at Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, when the solid rocket
boosters ignite at liftoff.