Friday, April 19, 2019



From the Art LeBrun collection

Author's note: Many of the cool photos seen in this piece are from the courtesy of the late, great Art LeBrun's collection. About nine years ago we connected when I posted some photos on's "L2" area in a thread about historic rockets. He chided me for "finally" joining the discussion and we later began swapping e-mails. I ended up sending him my full high resolution images of the LC3/4 blockhouse and mentioned that I was doing research for the Juno II flying model rocket for my Dr. Zooch Rockets kit. Art said he had some pictures that may help and he sent me a cash of Juno II images in return for my blockhouse images. Art was an amazing collector, but unlike others he very freely shared photos from his collection. Art passed away in 2013 and to his memory and friendship and skills in rocket history this blog post is dedicated. 
Art- we miss you.

Perhaps the most un-glamorized booster ever produced by von Braun’s team at ABMA (Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville) was the Juno II. Only ten of these vehicles were launched in a two and one half year period, and only four of those were able to be called  successful, yet today nearly every “rocket garden” seems to have one on display!

Juno II
The Juno II was derived by taking a Jupiter IRBM, lengthening its tank section by 36 inches and then adding the same upper stage configuration as had been used on the Jupiter C to place Explorer I into orbit. This configuration could place a 100 pound payload into earth orbit or send a 15 pound payload toward the moon. The latter of those two options being very tasty in 1958, following the success of Explorer I, when the concept of the Juno II was first proposed. Although the Air Force was snapping up every Jupiter missile that came off the production line as part of a crash program to deploy them in Europe, ABMA had already sealed a bid for five of the missiles for their own use. In February 1958, von Braun had flown out to JPL ( the Cal Tech Jet Propulsion Laboratory) right after the success of Explorer I and sat down with William Pickering for what was called a “Juno Meeting.” There they planned to fly the Juno II and to shoot for the Moon before the end of 1958.
The high speed section
minus the barrel. ABMA

Keep in mind here that the concept of staging as it would become known in the later Titan boosters, had yet to be perfected. Likewise complex electronic commanded stabilization of space vehicles was also still on the drawing boards. Nearly every space vehicle launched by the United States was spun in order to provide initial stability after booster separation. At ABMA their partnership with JPL came up with a spinning drum and clustered solid fuel upper stage concept. 

High speed section showing its spin barrel being hoisted
from a truck and placed aboard vehicle  AM-19G.
Art LeBrun collection

It used “Baby Sergeant” rocket motors. Each Baby Sergeant solid-fueled motor produced 1,573.66 pounds of thrust to a maximum 6 second burn, that normally lasted about 5.5 seconds. Each measured 46 inches long by 6 inches in diameter. The second and third stage Baby Sergeant motors also burned 50 pounds of T17-E2 solid fuel. The fourth stage Baby Sergeant motor burned 50 pounds of JPL-532A solid fuel, a slightly more efficient fuel than that burned in the second and third stages. Oddly the Baby Sergeant  were nothing like their namesake Sergeant which had a takeoff thrust of 45,000 lb, burned for 34 seconds and measured 31 inches in diameter and a length of 34.5 ft. The link below will take you to some animation showing this process for a Juno II.

Unpainted high speed
section shroud. ABMA
That three stage assembly was dubbed “the High Speed Section” or the “velocity package.” The boost process of the Juno II itself is fairly interesting with the first stage firing for a total of 180 seconds burning RP-1 (refined kerosene) and LOX (liquid oxygen) as the upper stages spun up to just under 450 RPM. Then high-speed section containing the upper three stages would separate and ignite. The second stage contained a cluster of 11 baby sergeant solid propellant rockets. Following that the third stage made up of 3 baby sergeant motors while the fourth stage consisted of a single baby sergeant motor. The high speed section also was equipped with 12 square fiberglass “windows” that allowed payload antennas better reception of radio signals.

Spin testing was critical with the High Speed Section because the Juno II had no hold-downs and was secured to the launch stand by nothing more than its own weight, an unbalanced, high RPM spinning of that section could actually cause the whole stack to fall over before the engine ever ignited. 

Jupiter/JunoII launch launch stand ABMA
Additionally, during flight the high RPM, and fairly heavy high speed section,  could vibrate its housing to pieces if it were unbalanced. Each section was unique and in spin testing it was balanced in a similar method to wheel balancing on a car as small pieces of metal on the rim were moved around to achieve perfection. One question that cropped up in the early planning stages of the High Speed Section on the Jupiter C was the thought that the centrifugal force of spinning may cause the solid propellant motors grain to bend out of shape and improperly burn. For that reason an early spin test took two of the baby sergeant rocket motors and spun them up to above 400 rpm where they were both fired. The motors burned correctly under those conditions.

The first Juno II and her
pad rat crew. Art LeBrun collection
On the first day of May, 1958 ARPA, (the Advanced Research Projects Agency) took over supervision of the Juno II from the Army and suddenly ABMA’s supply of Jupiter boosters doubled to 10. When NASA was formed in October of that same year, it elected to take up the Juno II program. Then on December 3, 1958 JPL became a part of NASA and everyone was looking toward the first launch of this “new” rocket. By the end of 1958 the von Braun team, on behalf of the newly created NASA, assembled and launched the first Juno II from Pad 5 at Cape Canaveral. NASA was itching to go from space planning to space flying and the Juno II, although developed by the ABMA, would give the public appearance of being a NASA vehicle and NASA project- so much so that the first two Juno II’s had the black letters “NASA” painted on their first stages.
Pioneer III probe. JPL

AM-11. Art LeBrun collection

On December 6, 1958 the first launch of a Juno II, vehicle AM-11, took place and lofted the Pioneer III probe- it’s target, the Moon and a lunar fly-by. The mission objectives were to measure the radiation intensity of the Van Allen radiation belt, test long range communication systems as well as the launch vehicle and other subsystems. Pioneer III and Pioneer IV were both tiny gold, cone-shaped probes that were packed with 1950s era electronics yet still light enough for the launch vehicle to shoot them past the Moon and into solar orbit.

Ignition of the booster’s single engine, which was the grandfather of the later Saturn I’s LOX/RP-1 powered H-1 engine, lit up the night at Cape Canaveral. All appeared normal as the rocket faded to little more than a fast moving star in the night’s sky. The Juno II’s first stage, however, was consuming its propellants at a slightly higher rate than planned and it shut down 3.7 seconds early. Although all of the high speed section’s rocket motors fired normally the payload failed to reach proper orbital escape velocity. It did, however, reach an altitude of 109,740 miles (measured from the center of the Earth) before it was recaptured by the home planet’s gravity and drawn back. The probe re-entered the Earth's atmosphere over Africa at 2:51 am Eastern Standard Time and burned up on December 7, ending its brief mission.
AM-11 MSS rollback
Art LeBrun collection

AM-14 Art LeBrun collection

AM-14 fueling.
Art LeBrun collection

Undeterred by that first failure NASA gave it another try on March 3, 1959 as AM-14, the second Juno II, was launched with Pioneer IV aboard. After a successful launch Pioneer 4 achieved its primary objective (an Earth-Moon trajectory), returned radiation data and provided a valuable tracking exercise. The probe passed within 37,280 miles of the Moon's surface on March 4, at a speed of 4,492 mi/hr. The distance was not close enough, however, to trigger the probe’s photoelectric sensor so it did not detect any lunar radiation. After passing the moon it went into solar orbit along with its cylindrical fourth stage casing tumbling several miles behind.

AM-16 blowing up. Art LeBrun collection

This video not only shows the production of  AM-14, but it shows the abort and  what happened inside the blockhouse when it happened! Although Periscope Video spoils it with their banner it's still cool to watch and listen to what it was like to be there.

The third launch of a Juno II, monikered AM-16, became one of the most re-run rocket blow-ups ever recorded on film in a flight that lasted just five seconds. A short in two diodes in inverter #1’s voltage regulator caused a power loss to the guidance control system which caused a loss of control. The Juno II was blown up by Range Safety near the ground on July 16, 1959.

Remains of AM-16
Art LeBrun collection
AM-16 in a happier moment.
Art LeBrun collection

One of the few images of AM-19B
Art LeBrun collection

Some confusion surrounds AM-19B, the fourth Juno II flight, but most records say it was launched on August 15, 1959 and failed to insert its payload into orbit because the first stage shut down early. There are other notations that add the fact that the “guidance compartment” depressurized early and caused the high speed section to become unstable. This is likely the fuel supply for the cold fire reaction control jets. The payload was the Navy’s 5 pound “Beacon 2” navigation satellite.

If you like the way Wes writes spaceflight history, check out his best selling book APOLLO PART ONE the Apollo 11 edition.

AM-23 liftoff. Note that the ruptured
pressure sphere caused by a bad solder
connection can already be seen venting
to the left. Art LeBrun collection
AM-19A, the fifth Juno II flight was actually a success on October 13, 1959 and placed Explorer VII into orbit. The launch was delayed  for two weeks due to the pad explosion of a Jupiter IRBM, AM-23.  On September 15 the Juno II was on LC-5 being prepared for a late September launch when pad activity was cleared so NASA could launch the Jupiter from LC-26B. The IRBM went out of control almost immediately after liftoff and before Range Safety could hit the command destruct button the Jupiter’s RP-1 tank collapsed and the vehicle exploded. Pieces of the exploding rocket peppered the area and some struck the Juno II. Casualties were 14 dead… mice. They’d been housed in the Jupiter’s nosecone as biological specimens for NASA. 
AM-19A ready for launch
Art LeBrun collection

The slight damage to the Juno II and resulting inspection delayed the launch to October 13, however. Explorer VII is still in orbit today- in fact it just passed over my head as I was writing this (no foolin’). The satellite itself was designed at JPL to detect Layman-alpha flux, measure solar X-rays, heavy cosmic rays, micro meteorite penetration, trapped energetic particles and anything else that the folks at JPL could think of without exceeding the 100 pound payload limit. Although it was powered by solar cells and 50s era NiCad batteries the satellite only transmitted data until February of 1961 and went silent on August 24 of that same year. Today it still orbits as NORAD ID 22 and international ID of 1959-009A and you can track it live here:

High speed shroud for AM 19C
being hoisted into place.
Art LeBrun collection

On March 23, 1960 another Juno II failed as the second stage of AM-19C failed to ignite. Some reports say that the first stage re-contacted the second stage after separation. Aboard as payload was the Explorer S-46 satellite that had been commissioned by the DOD and the Air Force. That satellite ended up splashing into the Atlantic.  

AM-19C liftoff.
Art LeBrun collection

Explorer VII cut-away study.
JPL drawing

AM-19D poised on the pad
is the 7th Juno II booster.
Art LeBrun collection

AM-19D, the seventh Juno II, placed Explorer VIII into orbit on November 3, 1960. The satellite was designed to gather and transmit data in real time about distribution of micrometeorites, electron temperature and electron density, temporal and spatial energy as well as ion concentrations. The vehicle went silent on December 27, 1960- just 54 days after it was launched. Amazingly, it remained in orbit until March 28, 2012.

If you were doing what Wes is doing in 1961 you can relate to his book Growing up with spaceflight PROJECT MERCURY Click HERE to check it out!

Rare image of AM-19F
Art LeBrun collection

Another failure took place on February 25, 1961 when the eighth Juno II’s third stage failed to ignite. Lifting off from LC-26B the booster monikered AM-19F lofted normally through its first stage burn and after separation enjoyed a normal coast period. All 7 of the second stage’s rocket motors ignited and burned properly, but no indication of second stage burn was received. Thus the S-45 satellite that was slated to study the ionosphere got a close up study of the eastern Atlantic ocean instead.

There are very few images of the later
Juno IIs. In this image of a Jupiter in
pre-launch assembly the vehicle in
the right background is believed to
be AM-19E the next to last Juno II
Art LeBrun collection
On April 27, 1961 Juno II number 9, AM-19E, placed Explorer XI into orbit. Also launched from LC-26B the booster successfully placed the astronomy satellite into a 290 mile by 905 mile elliptical orbit where it provided data on gamma-rays until November 17 of that same year. It remains in orbit as of this writing in 2019. You can track it at this link:

The only known image of the final Juno II on the pad is thing
one showing Freedom 7 in radio frequency testing with
AM-19G the last Juno II enclosed in its MSS in the background.
NASA image

May 24, 1961 saw the final launch of a Juno II. The rocket was secured in its gantry as Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 launched from nearby Pad 5 on May 5. 

This is the high speed section shroud
for AM-19G the 10th and last Juno II.
Art LeBrun collection

AM-19G was slated to boost solar astronomy satellite S-45A which was a twin to the S-45 vehicle that had been aboard the eighth Juno II when it failed the previous February. The luck for S-45A was no better. The first stage burned as planned, but there was no indication of second stage ignition as the entire stack ended up in the Atlantic ocean.

Here's another of Wes' spaceflight bookabout to go best-seller; PROJECT GEMINI Click HERE to see it!

By mid 1961 other space boosters- such as the Thor Able- were improving in reliability and the clustered spinning tub upper stages were considered highly outdated. NASA had burned through all of their inventory of Juno II boosters and thus no more Juno II flights were ever conducted. It’s important to keep in mind that the Juno II was never cancelled. Simply, all 10 of the modified Jupiter boosters that became the Juno II launch vehicles had been used and NASA had no active plan to further the project, so it ended. Oddly, by 1962 the Jupiter IRBM itself was actually outdated and the Air Force was left with a number of surplus missiles. Thus, some of those were dressed up to look like Juno IIs and set up as displays in rocket gardens around the planet. As of April 18, 2019 the Juno II display still stands and the Kennedy Space Center’s rocket garden. If you take a tape measure to it, however, you’ll find that it’s 36 inches too short, because it is actually a Jupiter dressed up like a Juno II… just like all the rest.

KSC Rocket Garden, April 18, 2019. Photo by Walt Evans

In the end the Juno II was simply a vehicle that was quickly passed by as spaceflight technology experienced a swift growth. Although it was NASA’s second least successful US launch vehicle, it was also only NASA’s second space booster, the first being the Thor Able, two of which had failed previous to the first Juno II launch. However, the scorched crown for the absolute leas successful booster goes to the Atlas Able. Five boosters were built, two failed on the ground and three failed in flight. Yet, Juno II was the very first to have the name “NASA” painted upon it.

Photo by Walt Evans, KSC 4/18/2019

King of the Gods: the Jupiter Missile Story, Ed Kyle, 2011, Public and L2 areas

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


The LC-3&4 blockhouse looking good in 2002...
not  looking so good today, however.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
Notice: Original photos and artwork on this site are copyright 2002- 2019 protected


Everyone has their favorite place, or places to visit. In my case I have favorite places at which I have favorite places where my most favorite place is located- or my "favorite place cubed." One of my favorite places is the Florida space coast and therein resides my favorite squared- the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Therein resides my favorite place cubed. It is a little know, often overlooked, routinely mistaken and mostly forgotten place called Launch Complex 3 and 4. NOT Complex 34 folks, but 3 and 4. I've been on bus tours where they simply drove right past it while turning around to get another look at LC 2 and 3 and then head for the famous lighthouse. Yet it is the location where the first large rockets- called Bumper, were launched. And there is a lot more overlooked history there as well... much of which we'll document here.

In 2002, my space buff pal Jim Banke and I got IDs from the CCAFS Museum to do a private tour of the Cape. Granted there were places that we could not go and walk around, such as LC-19 which is considered contaminated from toxic hyper-gols, or the actual pad at LC-14. Yet other places were not specified as off-limits and one of those was LC-3&4. Now, when a 45-year-old former airline captain and current research historian has a chance like this... well... I turned right into a 15-year-old raving space buff kid again! So, as Jim's van rolled up onto LC3&4 I bailed out with my camera in hand. Took some shots of the X-17 pad and the block house.

"Ya' think I can I go in there?" I asked.

"If the door's open." Jim replied, being quite sure that the place was locked and I'd find that out for myself.
Come on in...
said the blockhouse
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

As I approached the entrance to the blockhouse following in the footsteps of von Braun who supervised the first 6 Redstones launched from the Cape at this exact place... I found that Jim was wrong! The damned door was propped open with a mop handle! The door right next to the open one said "IN"... it was a karmic invitation that I could not pass up.

I ran back to the van and shouted that the freaking door was propped open with a mop. I heard Jim mumble something like "Don't ya' go and..."

Odd but, his voice just faded as I trotted back to the door. What was inside I could not imagine, but you don't miss an opportunity like this. I was gonna photograph every inch of it. (Postscript... 6 years later I was at the 50th anniversary of Explorer 1 and Jim showed me the recovered and restored Gemini white room from LC 19. "Now don't you go spelunking in there," he warned seriously. I'll show you folks my photos from inside in a later blog post... Ha!)

Front view of the blockhouse under construction.
Note the center direct view window and the
two mirror view windows on each side of it.
I have spent a lot of time and energy researching LC 3&4 since that day, and the more I look the more cool history I find. Although it is numbered "3" and "4" the site was actually the first launch pad ever used at the Cape. The first surveys of the site were completed on August 31, 1949. Then on May 9, 1950 Duval Engineering Company was contracted to build a paved road from Highway A1A 4.7 miles out to the pad site, which is literally on the tip of Cape Canaveral. The reinforced concrete pad surface measuring 8 inches thick and 100 x 100 feet was completed June 20, 1950. This was all in preparation for the launching of two Bumper V2 rockets, one on July 24 and the other on July 29, 1950. Meanwhile, contracting for a  blockhouse to replace the sandbag and cinder block temporary launch control shelter that had been used for Bumper began on May 9, 1950 and was completed on November 30, 1951.
The Bumper launch control blockhouse

August 1951 view of the blockhouse.
Although the exterior of the LC-3&4 blockhouse was completed in August of 1951, interior work continued into November. Total cost for just the blockhouse itself was $115,204, (which would be $1,120,031 in 2019 dollars.)

Located 200 feet from the pads the blockhouse has 3,115 square feet of space inside including the "Ready Room" which is located outside, but attached to, the hardened shelter. The domed reinforced firing room was attached to two equipment rooms and had three main ways that a launch could be viewed. Two of those were indirect view mirrors. A huge mirror was placed at a 45 degree angle at the top of the opening and a second was placed at the bottom at an opposing 45 degree angle. The person viewing could look through a thick shock-proof glass pane and see the outside by way of reflection. Any explosion tossed material would, in theory, not get all the way through. Each of these mirror-view windows had a large blind that could be closed completely over its exterior opening. The third way to see things was by a small direct-view window. And I wish I could tell you how thick it is, but I've yet to find a reliable source for that... but it is THICK.

The first gantry at the Cape
the Redstone's MSS.
Meanwhile the actual pad area was being enlarged to 100 x 300 feet in size with the new northern section becoming Pad 4. That pad would have two sets of railroad tracks leading off the pad and nearly into the scrub. These would accommodate something new at the cape that would be the forerunner of many more to come; a self-propelled "Missile Service Stand" (MSS) gantry. The MSS was built by the Noble Company of  Oakland, California who were later contracted to add overhead bridge cranes to nearly every hangar in the Cape's industrial area. It was shipped in pieces aboard 14 railroad cars to Cape Canaveral in July of 1953 on a 5 day trip. It was then trucked to the launch site where just 7 Nobel workmen reassembled it at LC4 in a remarkable 5 days. It stood 135 feet tall, 26 feet wide at the base and was 61 feet long. The MSS weighed in at 308,000 pounds. There were four movable platforms and an elevator on each side. There was also an airconditioned workroom on the lower level. An overhead crane able to lift 15 tons served to aid in stacking rocket components. A diesel engine powered the electric motors that allowed the MSS to move up and down the railroad tracks embedded in in the surface of LC4. It is worth noting that the original Nobel drawing of the gantry refer to it as the "Missile Test Stand Assembly" while later documents from the Air Force call it the MSS.

MSS seen reclining. 
Redstone 1 from the
William Tippins collection
One unique feature was that the MSS could be folded down backward when not in use. The gantry was intended specifically for the early Redstone launches from the Cape. It served the first six Redstone launches starting in August 1953.

Thereafter Redstone activity was shifted to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's new "Vertical Launch Facility" that consisted of LC 5, 6, 26 A and B. As a result in February of 1955 the MSS was laid down and jacked up off of its rails. Then several rubber-tired bogeys were rolled into place beneath the gantry and it was lowered onto them. Two diesel semi-trucks slow-rolled the MSS and moved it to LC5 and 6 where it was carefully lowered onto the railroad tracks of that launch complex and made ready to handle further Redstone flights. It worked there along with it's younger brother and near twin "A" frame MSS which was 23 feet shorter and had a larger overhead crane. Subsequently it ended up servicing all of the Mercury Redstones including Freedom 7 and Liberty Bell 7. For that purpose the third highest service level on the MSS was fully enclosed and air conditioned for manned operations. The pad rats named that level "Surfside 5" after a TV detective show of the era that supposedly took place in Miami called "Surfside 6." The MSS thereafter lay inert until the Florida salt air took its toll and the structure was finally scrapped in the early 2000s.

Cable tunnel at the "Y" split, May 1951
A critical part of the blockhouse and both pads is nearly invisible... because most of it a buried. A cable tunnel was constructed that led from the north side of the blockhouse and split in a "Y" arrangement 150 feet from the blockhouse and going to each pad where the tunnels are then split again to an "H" arrangement under both pads 3 and 4.  Interestingly, the cost of just the tunnel system alone was $97,275 ($945,547 in 2019 dollars) which was nearly the cost of the entire blockhouse itself.

Cable tunnel as seen on July 2, 1951
Both tunnels vari in height and are 8 feet high in some areas and only 6 feet high in others. The tunnel leading to Pad 3 is only 4 feet wide, but the later section that goes to Pad 4 is 5 feet wide. The tunnels once carried everything from compressed carbon dioxide gas lines to huge bundles of electric cable. Additionally they carried firefighting water lines for the pads and hydraulic control lines. When the tunnels were in operation they were accessible from the blockhouse and through stainless steel hatches on the surface.

So... who out there would like to see what this looks like inside? I cannot show you what it is like right now, but I can show you what it looked like in 2002. First, here's a floor plan that will be our key on this tour...
This is my own drawing of the layout of the LC 3&4 blockhouse.
And in we go!
There wasn't any welcome mat... but to a research historian, this shouts "come on in!"
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
It's 4 steps down as part of the blockhouse
is underground.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
Come on "IN"
This was the part that has always cracked me up. One door propped open with a rusty mop handle and the other says "IN" on it. Inviting to say the least... especially to the local alligators and snakes.

Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
Anyone for a cold, but rusty drink from the fountain?
Of course none of the utilities are hooked up anymore- including the water. Yet, as I stood there I wondered how many times von Braun or Debus sipped from that same fountain.

Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
Behind door number 1 we have.... a sink.
Keep in mind that I did not have a flashlight with me because I'd never intended to go spelunking in a darkened cavern that day... man-made or not. All I had was a small pen light on my keychain, so my camera's flash had to do the work of illumination. 

What is this over in the corner?
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

A sight that just spun me back to the 1950s was this emplacement for a regulation USAF fire

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On the left is a mirror-view window and on the right is the direct view.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Some light was coming in through the three windows, however, and that allowed me to move around once my eyes adapted to the dark.
Looking at all three windows. Keep in mind that ground level
is at the bottom of each window.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Direct vision of the launch was thought to be critical because in 1951 remote TV technology was just not up to the task. Thus, three windows were built into the blockhouse. The one in the center is made of multi laminated layers of glass, but the two on either side used double mirrors at 45 degree angles to give the viewer a safe vantage point. The last time I saw the blockhouse, in 2019 it appeared that all of the glass was still intact, but the mirrors were gone.

Here is a "then & now" of the controller's positions
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

When looking at the firing control positions it is key to note that everything was analoge.

For those who may be wondering... the launch controls
seen here are for support of the BOMARC and not the Redstone.
Originally LC 3&4 were supposed to support the Air Force's XF-99 BOMARC program. The prime contractor, Boeing, however, insisted that each missile be fully test flown and the data be completely analyzed before the next missile was constructed. That led to a snail's pace of development and the first BOMARCs were launched from Pad 3 simply by sitting on a launch table.

Early BOMARC on Pad 3 August 1952

Originally LC4 was intended to launch BOMARC, but the
missile's slow development rate left Pad 4 open for the Army to
use for the Redstone. Look closely at this photo and the white
dial in the center and note the word "Boeing" on it.
Interestingly, Boeing was launching BOMARCs from the LC3 before the Air Force officially "accepted" the launch complex. The first BOMARC was fired from the site on September 10, 1952 and a second was launched on January 23, 1953. The Air Force officially accepted the launch complex in March of 1953. So, the first "official" Air Force launch of a BOMARC came on June 10, 1953. Many sources confuse the dates saying that the second launch was the first and ignoring the first launch as being the first and... you get the idea. The first Redstone, however, was definitely on August 20, 1953.

Over time a lot of changes were apparently made inside the
blockhouse. Here is the doorway to some sort of data  recording
room. No idea what was in there but there is a "Danger- High Voltage"
sign on the wall buy the door.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Here's a wider view where you can see that a false ceiling was installed later.
Notice the acoustic tiles in the original, many of which are now on the floor.
The original 1951 light fixtures, however, are in great shape.
Man, how I'd love to  have one of those hanging above my desk.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Finally, we turn around and visit... the cable tunnel... which is the most creepy place on the blockhouse. It is totally flooded with black water and after I stuck my camera in there and shot the first photo, I heard something moving in there! Yep- if you've ever lived in Florida. like I have, one of the first rules is that where there is standing water- there are critters residing. And you are no longer at the top of the food chain.

The cable tunnel- I shot my camera's flash and the light just fell into it!
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Here's a now and then composite of the cable tunnel.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

I took the time to point the camera back the other way and
again shot into the darkness and  captured this... just
junk that was once ventilation and electrical equipment.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved 

Not having any anti-venom in my pocket and not wanting to be dragged by the pant cuff down into that black water to become alligator food, I decided to make a hasty retreat from the blockhouse and leave it to the critters.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
So it was goodbye to Building 4100 and I started digging into its history.

Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

The site itself went on to host launches of the X-17 missile that was key to solving the problem of reentry into the atmosphere.

Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved

Additionally, most folks do not know that it served as the "Forward Medical Area" for all of the Project Mercury flights. It was the place where doctors and nurses waited for the helicopters that would bring back an astronaut from an aborted launch.
Photo copyright 2002 Wes Oleszewski all rights reserved
Of course the Air Force did finally get all of their BOMARC testing done there as well. The BOMARC "split-roof" shelter was constructed at Pad 4 after the Redstone was moved to LC 5&6.

The split-roof building is still there as of March of 2019.

LC 3&4's final duty was as the tethered balloon facility. Sadly, today LC-3&4 remains as just a turn around for the bus tours.

The first Redstone ever launched
August 20, 1953 ABMA photo
from the William Tippins collection
But now you know more than the tourists...

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Thanks to Emily Perry who recently retired from the CCAFS Museum

Details from:
 Historical American Engineering Record, National Parks Service
"The 6555th," Chapter II, Section 3
"Cape Canaveral- a Nobel Endeavor" James E. Hale Jr. CCAFS Museum
Photos from the UCF collection