Observing a Space Shuttle launch, I noticed that the crew access gantry and its white room are too close to the SRB's flames during launch; the launch umbilical tower and its crew access device on Chinese CZ-2F (for Shenzhou) is also very close to the rocket's poisonous plumes during launch. My question: Is there a need for a post-launch procedure to clean the white room to avoid contamination by the engine's residues? I think the hydroxy-terminated poly-butadiene (HTPB) is very poisonous, for example.

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    $\begingroup$ The SRB exhaust is unpleasant. but not really contact toxins. It is not like hypergolics that rot your skin, destroy your lungs from the inside while melting your throat lining. $\endgroup$ – geoffc May 29 '15 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ So I still wonder how the chinese cope with with CZ2F smoke, since as we can see, the white room is open to the air. $\endgroup$ – Junior Miranda May 29 '15 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ True. In theory fully combusted hypergolics are fine. It is the incomplete combustion that kills you. Which is probably inevitable. $\endgroup$ – geoffc May 29 '15 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ There is a large problem with the Shuttle OMS, that prevents the crews from leaving the shuttle before everything has been scrubbed, but HTPB isn't poisonous. In fact the soles of your shoes might contain HTPB. Smells horrible though, if something went wrong in th hardening process. $\endgroup$ – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi May 29 '15 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JuniorMiranda It is a good distance from the actual exhaust, and with a bit of wind I guess they just let it dissipate. $\endgroup$ – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi May 29 '15 at 14:55

After each STS launch, the pad including the fixed service structure was washed down. There's a video in the L2 subscriber section of Nasaspaceflight.com. The video resolution is too low to see if the crew access white room is washed down.

Post Launch Pad Debris Inspection

Objectives: Locate and identify debris that could have damaged the Shuttle vehicle during launch.
Areas: MLP deck, flame exhaust holes and trenches, FSS, pad surfaces and slopes, extension of trenches to perimeter fence, walkdown of the beach from Playalinda to Complex 40, aerial overview of inaccessible areas.
Time: Launch + 3 hours (after pad safing, before washdown)


So far as I can tell, there is no special procedure to clear any potential toxins from the white room, or anything at the launch pad, after a launch. I can't find any mention of cleaning up the site around a rocket launch after it's launch due to potential toxins, only stuff after failed launches.

Bottom line, I think the White Room's default environmental protections is sufficient, and no special cleaning of the White Room was required between launches to clean it from any toxic materials.


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