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A little late but here is the final part of Nikon at Cape Kennedy

Been a little busy with a great new project that I will start documenting right away

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Where would we work

the rented motorhome was proving too small now that the program was getting into full swing. It required extra time due to having to pick it up in Orlando and drive it to KSC. There was very little storage and each launch brought more and more pros that wanted to do remotes. Very few photographers had “extra” equipment to leave out in the swamps overnight. Once we had a few launches under our belt and had developed a reputation of being part of the solution when it came to remotes, we were given permission to have an office trailer moved to the site. They found space in the lower parking lot sometime between the launches of STS-4 and STS-5. This gave us a semi-permanent location to work out of.


After getting about a half dozen launches under out belt, it became obvious that Mike and I could not spend the amount of time necessary at the Cape. The company decided that the workload would support the addition of an additional NPS rep in the Southeast. We would place the person in Atlanta with responsibility to handle things at the Kennedy Space Center. We had been using a combination of light, vibration and sound triggers with different electronic boxes necessary for each. We ran across a guy who was making one box that you could plug any type of trigger into. The “Andrews Remote Box” was being hand built by a photographer who was covering the launches. We had purchased one and it worked extremely well. We interviewed the builder, Scott Andrews, and hired him in June of 1984. Scott hit the ground running and made himself (and Nikon) a valuable asset to both the photographers and NASA. Mike and I would occasionally attend a launch but Scott was the man in charge from then on.


The second-largest number, 2,468, was for the STS-26 “return to launch” on September 29, 1988, the first launch after the Challenger explosion. Most, however, were restricted to covering the launch from a more distant causeway viewing site because the LC-39 Press site was restricted to a limited number of journalists as part of safety precautions implemented after the 1986 Challenger explosion. Nikon was allowed to be at the press site as usual due to Nikon’s long time commitment to helping anyone that asked for assistance.

When the Shuttle program started, there were about dozen agencies/papers that would put out remotes. By STS-6 in early 1984, the number of people wanting to do remotes had grown so big that NASA started using busses to take people out to the pad. They would line up in the parking lot waiting to board.


We continued to work out of the trailer until Hurricane Francis in 2004. KSC including the VAB building was hit hard and took millions of dollars in damage. This caused NASA to reevaluate their policy of trailers in the parking lot and on the mound even though all trailers had to be anchored for high winds.


At the time, only press organizations were allowed to be on the mound. All support organizations were relegated to the lower parking area along the front row.

All of the agencies that had trailers on the mound had to remove them and replace them with permanent concrete structures. Scott Andrews had become very well entrenched with all the NASA people and had offered extensive assistance to them. Due to his relationships, and all the help that Nikon had offered NASA over the years; Nikon was allowed to have a permanent structure built on the mound after all the agencies that wanted to have facilities were taken care of. This was a first for NASA; to allow a non-news agency to have such a prestigious location.

This Space Shuttle STS-135 photo was taken with the NIKON D7000 on Friday July 8, 2011 in Cape Kennedy, FL. © 2011 (Photo by Mark Suban)
© 2011 (Photo by Mark Suban)

The new location meant that we could have secure climate controlled facilities and a place where we could meet with Nikon customers. We continued to work out of this space until the end of the Shuttle Program. Scott Andrews continued to offer support to all who needed it until November 2007. After Scott left, the reins were turned over to Ron Taniwaki. Ron had plenty of remote experience since he had wired and operated the pool remotes for the O. J. Simpson trial in 1984/85 and the “crash test in the desert” also in 1984. Ron continued the work, right up to the end of the program.


Ron setting remotes at one of the last launches. ©Bill Pekala


Nikon’s Mark Suban (2nd from left) discussing business with Bruce Weaver (left) & Stan Honda (3rd from left) from AFP with Bill Ingalls from NASA (right) ©Bill Pekala

The training continued right up to the end of program and we continued to rotate new staff through the Cape so that they could experience setting up remotes.


Bill Pekala setting remotes for one of the later shuttle launches

Mark Suban joined Nikon in 2008 and underwent the “trial by fire” remote training. Ron sharing the knowledge he had acquired over his years at the cape. I would also occasionally cover a launch to keep up with what was going on at KSC. With digital capture now the norm, some things changed. I did find that it was easier than in the beginning. With so many new gadgets and clamps, setting up remotes is well within the skills of most photographers. After I retired from Nikon in January of 2014, Mark became the new head of NPS and continues to see that major unmanned launches are covered. Someday manned space flight will continue and Nikon wants to be sure they are there.


Mark Suban getting his remotes ready prior to set out. ©Bill Pekala


The Nikon building is still there waiting for that next big launch


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  1. Bernie Campoli

    Thanks Bill,enjoyed it, brought back some memories. Been reorganizing Space Shuttles this week and finding some gems.

  2. Good read and fond memories of being a part of Nikon’s NPS San Francisco team, 1977-82.
    Mike Phillips was a gifted mentor, and supportive of his team, and of course our customers.
    He presented me with a signed print of the first Space Shuttle launch (STS-1) in April 1981.
    (I made a digital scan of the original, and gifted it to the Challenger Space Center in Peoria AZ).
    In retrospect, after retirement, my time with Nikon and Mike was most rewarding of my working years,

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