Videos of rocket launches often show exhaust flames engulfing at least the upper parts of a launch tower or strongback.

Do these towers need to be reconstructed or at least repainted after a launch?

Do the umbilical cords and fuel hoses seen retracting during a launch survive the launch or do they need to be replaced? What brands are available?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This cool slow motion movie of a Saturn V launch mentions a material "painted " on the structures meant to burn off in order to handle the heat. Interesting question. I suspect that the military focus on launching an ICBM just once historically has lead to wasteful adaptation of such standards by civil space flight. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Jan 24, 2016 at 10:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What else could they do? All options I can think of (move the tower away before launch, enclose the entire tower in a blast-proof bunker, watercool the entire 300ft high tower) are at least as expensive as having to repaint the tower every few launches. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jan 25, 2016 at 13:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ At nearly twice the liftoff thrust of a Saturn V, it would be interesting to see how Elon Musk plans to shorten a Starship/Super Heavy pad's cycle time to a week or less. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2020 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


On e.g. the Saturn and Shuttle launches, vulnerable items like umbilicals are retracted into closed spaces, with a door closing over them in time to protect them.

This very detailed video of a Shuttle launch shows some of those (at 9:40, for example).

The audio commentary mentions (around 9:00) that the cameras on the platform and tower are inside explosion-proof boxes, in a nitrogen atmosphere. The lenses are protected by quartz glass covers. These get damaged sometimes and have to be reground and polished.

On almost every launch, items like tools were left behind and got blasted away, melted or otherwise damaged by the rocket exhaust. Even parts attached to the tower structure sometimes get blown off. NASA does a post-launch inspection after every launch.

The entire tower is designed to explosion-proof standards.

They typically spend a few weeks making repairs, re-painting rails and other sections that have been stripped of their coatings by the launch.

Everything has to be painted to prevent corrosion in the salty sea air at Canaveral.

The concrete of the flame trench has been known to need occasional repairs too.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.