Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex Marks New Era in Adaptable Entertainment Architecture and Engineering

Authored by: Rob Bartlett, AIA, NCARB, Senior Architect, Principal

White & gray storage room with red pipes and brown boxes

Designing a new facility or attraction presents its own set of challenges, even when the vision for the project is firmly set, but how does an AEC firm design a building to adapt to a vision that will evolve over the next 20 years? In 2017, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex engaged BRPH to build its newest attraction. From the inception of the project, BRPH worked alongside its client to help them develop the vision for Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex—a thrilling 4D motion theater experience, Spaceport KSC,

Purple walls and white room entrancecombined with a showcase of NASA and commercial space hardware and displays, all focusing on the present and future of collaborative space travel. The goal? To inspire the next generation of space explorers. The challenge? Knowing just what the future of space travel might bring.

Looking Forward

While other areas of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex highlight the past achievements of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, this 50,000-square-foot attraction—which opened June 2022—was conceived to evolve and adapt along with NASA and the commercial space industry. Much more than a static display, the attraction had to be adaptable to whatever artifacts, hardware and exhibits may come in years ahead—no matter how large or how heavy—and must offer a way for these elements to be easily moved in and around the space.

During the design phase, BRPH faced the challenge of planning for a 160-foot-long SpaceX Falcon 9 booster to be suspended above the exhibit floor. The building plan accommodated an open wall through which the artifact, the width of a football field and 12-feet in diameter, could be expertly guided into place prior to completion of the ingress point. The twice-flown, first stage appears as if floating overhead with the use of a custom-engineered, high-strength “tri-pyramid” cable system.

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