Service structure

A service structure is a structure built on a rocket launch pad to facilitate assembly and servicing.

An umbilical tower also usually includes an elevator which allows maintenance and crew access. Immediately before ignition of the rocket's motors, all connections between the tower and the craft are severed, and the bridges over which these connections pass often quickly swing away to prevent damage to the structure or vehicle.


Kennedy Space Center

During the shuttle era the structures at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 pads included a rotating service structure that was moved in place around the shuttle stack for the period of time that the space craft sat on the pad prior to launch, usually several weeks. That structure was rotated back out of the way several hours prior to the launch while the fixed service structure remained in place at all times.[1]

In 2011 NASA removed both the fixed and rotating service structures from their pad at LC39B to make way for a new generation of launch vehicles. Likewise in 2017-2018 SpaceX removed the rotating service structure from LC39A and modified the fixed service structure to adapt it for the new series of commercial crewed vehicles to be launched there.

Certain rockets such as the Delta and the Saturn V use structures consisting of a fixed portion, formally called the umbilical tower and a mobile portion, which is moved away from the vehicle several hours before launch called mobile service tower/structure. The mobile portion is often called a gantry.

White room

The 'White Room' was the small area used by NASA astronauts to access the spacecraft during human flights up through the Space Shuttle era in 2011. The room takes its name from the white paint, which was used on the Gemini. The room was first used in Project Mercury, its use and white color (since Gemini) continued through subsequent programs of Apollo and the Space Shuttle.

NASA used this room for astronaut final preparations before entering the spacecraft such as donning parachute packs, putting on helmets and detaching portable air conditioning units.[2] After 2014, NASA planned to move the White Room to a museum.[3]

Baikonur Cosmodrome

Similarly, Soviet-and Russian-designed service structures such as those at the Baikonur Cosmodrome stand while servicing the vehicle. The entire structure pivots outward and downward out of the way..


  1. "Rotating Service Structure (RSS)". NASA.
  2. Burgess, Colin (2003). Fallen astronauts: heroes who died reaching for the moon. Bison Books. ISBN 0-8032-6212-4.
  3. "NASA signs over historic Launch Pad 39A to SpaceX". collectSpace. 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
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