Building 4200 Rocket Engine Display

Building 4200 at Marshall Space Flight Center has a display showcasing Marshall's propulsion legacy, consisting of an F-1 rocket engine, a J-2 rocket engine, and a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME).

Marshall Space Flight Center rocket engine display at Building 4200 in
    2013

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Picture by heroicrelics.org.

This rocket engine propulsion display dates back to May 2008, when this group of engines were put in place following a refurbishment. These same engines had been on display in different locations in front of Building 4200 for a short time, and Building 4200 has had other "lawn ornaments" over the years.

In the following two undated photos, we see that an Apollo boilerplate with launch escape tower sits in front of Building 4200, close to Rideout Road. Building 4202, the last-completed building in the office complex, was under construction in May 1964, with its occupation scheduled for mid-1965; the earliest photo I found of the completed Building 4202 was October 1966, so these dates would be the earliest that these photos could have been taken (Building 4203, located to the east of Buildings 4201 and 4202, was not completed until 1991).

This boilerplate is presumably the same boilerplate which was later on display in the Rocket Garden and subsequently put on display with the restored Saturn V at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. These are the only two photos I've found of the boilerplate in front of Building 4200, so it seems likely that it was displayed there for a relatively short time.

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 with Apollo boilerplate

Undated aerial view of Building 4200 with Apollo boilerplate.
Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 with Apollo boilerplate

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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.
Restoration by heroicrelics.org.

While it's possible that someone decided that the boilerplate would be better displayed at the Space Orientation Center (located in the Rocket Garden), I think it's equally likely that a visiting official from the Manned Spacecraft Center (today renamed the Johnson Space Center) commented to a MSFC official that it was nice for MSFC, the propulsion center, to erect a monument of a manned spacecraft, under the purview of the MSC, and that was the end of that :-)

For a very brief time in 1978 the Orbiter Enterprise was in front of Building 4200, but that may be stretching the definition of the word "display" (as Enterprise was being moved from the Redstone Army Airfield to the Dynamic Test Stand for testing).

Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise in front of Marshall Space Flight
    Center Building 4200

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Most of the vintage photos I've seen of the von Braun office complex have had no static displays outside Building 4200. This was also the case circa March 2002, when this Google Earth imagery was taken.

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 engine display in 2002

Building 4200 rocket engine display circa March 2002.
Photo courtesy Google Earth.

Building 4200 did, at some point, gain some rocket engines on its lawn. This photo, circa March 2007, shows a J-2 (to the north) and an F-1 rocket engine (without nozzle extension) displayed along Rideout Road. At some point, there was also a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), displayed vertically, on the grass near 4200's entrance. The engines were removed for refurbishment and placed in their current location circa May 13, 2008. Note the darker, square spot on the lawn across the driveway from 4200's main entrance; it seems likely that this discoloration is from the SSME's display platform and that this imagery was taken after the SSME had been removed for refurbishment.

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 engine display in 2007

Building 4200 rocket engine display circa March 2007.
Photo courtesy Google Earth.

Here's the view from the front steps of Building 4200, as it looked in the 2004-2006 timeframe:

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 engine display in 2006

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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

Here are some individual engine photos, starting with the Space Shuttle Main Engine, across the driveway from Building 4200's main entrance. Note the F-1, at left, and J-2, at right, showing the relative positions of the engines.

SSME in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 circa 2004

SSME in front of Building 4200 circa 2004.
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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

SSME in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 circa 2004

SSME in front of Building 4200 circa 2004.
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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

And two photos of the J-2:

J-2 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa 2004

J-2 rocket engine in front of Building 4200 circa 2004.
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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

J-2 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa 2004

J-2 rocket engine in front of Building 4200 circa 2004.
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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

Finally, two photos of the F-1 (which was, at the time, displayed without a nozzle extension):

F-1 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa 2004

F-1 rocket engine in front of Building 4200 circa 2004.
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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

F-1 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa 2004

F-1 rocket engine in front of Building 4200 circa 2004.
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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

The engine emplacements seemed to have a temporary nature about them. As the following February 2006 MSFC photos show, the engines were mounted on simple wooden platforms, and the SSME and J-2 platforms had lips on them which retained water and grass clippings:

SSME in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 circa 2006

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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

J-2 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa February 2006 J-2 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa February 2006

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Photos courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

It appears that the drainage was not the best on the F-1 platform, either:

F-1 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa February 2006 F-1 rocket engine in front of Marshall Space Flight Center Building
	4200 circa February 2006

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Photos courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

This diagram, also dated February 2006, a simple planning mockup based on the March 2002 Google Earth imagery (above), shows the plan for a new "front island" for Building 4200 with the engines in their current location:

Planning diagram of new Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200
	engine display

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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.

The engineers faithfully implemented this plan, as witnessed by Google Earth imagery:

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 engine display in 2012

Building 4200 rocket engine display circa December 2012.
Photo courtesy Google Earth.

After being refurbished, the engines were moved to their new home on or about May 13, 2008. This photo, taken a few days after the engines were emplaced, shows them in their current configuration. Note the indentations on the grass around the island from the cranes and other equipment used to install the engines. Also notice the dead patches of grass near Rideout Road where the F-1 and J-2 engines formerly rested.

Marshall Space Flight Center Building 4200 engine display

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Photo courtesy Marshall Space Flight Center.