BRPH provides an adaptable design solution for Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex

When the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) set out to create its newest attraction, Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex, they turned to longtime partner BRPH, an architecture, engineering and construction firm nationally renowned, for his creative and technical expertise as well as his experience in handling and displaying priceless space artifacts. The new attraction opened last week, immersing visitors in the present and future of collaborative space exploration via an exciting two-story motion theater experience, Spaceport KSC, and a showcase of hardware and equipment. priceless NASA and commercial space displays.

BRPH has worked alongside NASA and Delaware North Parks & Resorts at KSC (DNCPR) since the project began in 2017, helping clients develop the vision for the attraction. The design marks a new era in entertainment architecture and design in which agility and adaptability are key to keeping the attraction relevant to the future. While other areas of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex highlight past accomplishments of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, the 50,000 square foot Gateway: Deep Space Launch Complex was designed to evolve and adapt with the space industry. Much more than a static display, the attraction is designed to accommodate all the artifacts, equipment and exhibits that may be introduced in the years to come.

“We couldn’t be happier with the vision, creativity and technical skill provided by our long-time partners at BRPH on our newest attraction, Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex,” said Therrin Protze, director of the operation of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Agility in design

During the design phase, BRPH took on the challenge of planning the suspension of a 160-foot-long commercial space rocket booster above the exhibit floor. The construction plan called for an open wall through which the artifact, the width of a football field and 12 feet in diameter, could be expertly guided into place before the entry point was completed. The twin-flight first stage appears to float overhead through the use of a custom-designed, high-strength “tri-pyramid” cable system.

The twice-flown artifact is still burnt and discolored from its two launches and landings – perfect for display and guaranteed to bring the ‘wow’ factor.

To accommodate any new artifact or material acquisitions in the years to come, BRPH has designed a vehicle prep room at the rear of the attraction, equipped with interior and exterior sets of 28-foot-wide high doors 20 feet high. Through this “behind the scenes” entry, artifacts and materials can be received, stored, and prepared for display without interrupting the guest experience, before being moved onto or off the exhibit floor. A system of air paddles around the perimeter of the exhibit hall uses a cushion of compressed air to create a hovering effect, allowing easier movement of objects like the Orion crew capsule, which was built to accommodate four astronauts and weighs 8.5 metric tons or so. 19,000 pounds. This technology is similar to that used in NASA’s Operations and Checkout building where the Orion capsule is processed, a facility also designed by BRPH. A 10-ton overhead crane is permanently installed between the two sets of high-rise gates to help move heavy artifacts such as capsules. Multiple power and data systems have been strategically placed throughout the showroom floor for flexibility. Interior features such as display ramps are removable to allow for additional clearance and design adaptability.

“We were thrilled to partner with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex again for their newest attraction,” said Francisco Alvarado, AIA, NCARB, Vice President and Director of BRPH. “Our depth and breadth of experience across many industries, including our extensive portfolio of work for NASA, places BRPH in a unique position to leverage our bank of experience, while delivering creative new solutions that meet the flexible space needs of the visitor complex. We are proud to have designed an attraction that will evolve with the future of space travel and delight visitors for years to come.

A rich history

Following the closure of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, BRPH was called upon to provide structural, civil, and MEP engineering for the Space Shuttle Atlantis® attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor

Complex, helping to create a permanent home for the retired 153,996-pound orbiter that’s displayed as if it’s floating in space. The company also designed Heroes & Legends with the US Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing, in which a 68-foot-long Mercury Redstone rocket hangs from the roof structure.

The BRPH shares a long history with NASA, as it was created in 1964 in direct support of the Apollo program. Since then, BRPH has provided architectural and engineering services for launch complexes at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and around the world. The company also worked on major renovation projects inside the Vehicle Assembly Building and other KSC structures.

BRPH also brings decades of entertainment and theme park experience, with its resume including iconic rides such as Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Sesame Street Land™ at SeaWorld Orlando, TRANSFORMERS ™ 3D: The Ride, Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon, and more.

AEC’s experience in transporting and coordinating large vehicles and rockets, as well as industrial equipment such as overhead cranes and pneumatic pallet systems, was also a tremendous asset, further reassuring NASA and commercial space companies like SpaceX that its priceless artifacts were indeed in good hands.

Abdul J. Gaspar