—By: Alice Liao – Article for Architectural Lighting Magazine—
Perhaps it was written in the stars that lighting designer Martin Peck would illuminate the updated Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Approached at a theming convention by a retired NASA engineer who had heard him speak, Peck, principal of Creative Lighting Design & Engineering, was initially “swept away with lighting ideas to make these vintage rockets come to life,” but then disappointed to hear that someone else was being considered first. Ideas and passion won out and weeks later, he and his team were touring the site and the entire Kennedy facility with the goal of writing an appropriate scope for the lighting of the garden. “All of the design had been done on the
but the lighting,” Peck said. “And the lighting was potentially the most important part.” As a result of Peck‘s efforts, when night falls, the Gemini Titan, Mercury Atlas, Atlas-Agena, Mercury Redstone, Juno 1 and 2, Delta and Saturn 1B are summoned to startling luminous life and visitors enter a world palpable with the wonder and excitement of astronautical travel.
That the rockets are owned by the Smithsonian and represent remarkable chapters in the history of space exploration imposed restrictions on what the lighting designers could do. Most critically, the rockets had to remain intact. “We could not attach anything to the historic artifacts or drill holes into them.” Peck said. Secondly. as a matter of good lighting practice, the solution could not create glare for nighttime visitors wanting to admire the rockets from up close, yet needed to provide sufficient ambient light to ensure pedestrian safety in the dark. Then, of course, there were the turtles. “The Turtle Law is an environmental law down in Florida that restricts any kind of light that is visible horizontally, it will attract turtles.” said Peck. “It’s like an environmental trespass law for turtles.” The design team concluded that minimizing glare to pedestrians would also resolve the concern for turtles.
Having agreed to a “90-percent design completion in about five weeks.” the design team relied on computer rendering software to test different solutions and ensure that the final lighting design, when presented to the client, was accurate and fully realized. Associate designer Andrew Wegwert researched the dimensions and shapes of each of the rockets and created three-dimensional models. The models were then transferred to a second program, in which photometrics for actual fixtures were added to simulate a variety of lighting options. Fine-tuning the solution and pinpointing fixture locations and aiming angles demanded several weeks. Although the effort paid off. Peck confessed to being nervous the night of the presentation, “Here we were showing these pretty pictures and I was wondering. ‘Is the real thing going to look anything like it?'” His fears proved needless, as a partial mockup of the Gemini Titan at the end of the presentation showed the renderings to be “dead on.”
GOING TO THE SOURCE
To respond to the client’s request that the rocketry not only be individually illuminated but also that each could be showcased at different moments, Peck determined that the lighting would need to be dimmable and theatrically controlled. Although sports lighting often employs metal halides with “instant on/off” capability, a metal halide solution in this case would have been “prohibitively expensive.” “It became apparent that we had to uplight the rocket bodies with very narrow spot well-lights that use dimmable incandescent sources,” said Peck. “However, to make that work would require a 1000W PAR64 very narrow spot. which from an energy perspective, is too costly. And there was no in-grade fixture that would have been able to handle that much heat.”
From his theatrical background, Peck mined the 575W quartz halogen lamp, a staple of stagelighting, that when outfitted with the proper reflector, produces the same peak and characteristics of a 1000w PAR64. In collaboration with a manufacturer, he developed a modified well-light with the 575W lamp and a customized reflector to produce the 8-degree spot beam that could be placed close to the base of the vertical rockets to brilliantly uplight the fuselage. For the larger Gemini Titan and Mercury Atlas, a 34-ft.-diameter ring of 16 well-lights is centered around the base to wash the top two-thirds of the rockets. while the smaller rockets are uplighted with 12 well- lights in a 24-ft.-diameter circle.
The bottom third of the fuselage is lighted with a second ring of 250W quartz halogen spotlights located closer to the base of each rocket but within the confines of a steel railing. The railing, according to Peck, had already been designed prior to his involvement and consequently served as a delimiting factor for fixture placement. The large rockets are “filled out” with 16 of these smaller spotlights arranged in a 22-ft.-diameter ring and the smaller models with 12 fixtures in a 16-ft.-diameter circle.
In both circles, all of the uplights are alternately aimed to achieve a uniformity of roughly 1.2:1 and to allow the rockets to be dimmed up or down in layers for dramatic effect. Said Peck, “By lighting the different pans in sequence, we could make the rockets appear to ‘grow’ or launch.” Enhancing the illusion, well-lights recessed around the base of each rocket and floodlights mounted on support hardware and aimed downward at the motors and ground bathe the engines in fiery light. Both well-lights and floodlights are equipped with color filters in red and orange-red. For an added touch of realism, fixtures with red color filters affixed to plugs inside the nozzle to cast a pool of intense red light directly under the bottom of each rocket. The plugs enabled the design team to conceal fixtures inside the nozzle without directly attaching them to the rockets themselves.
Impossible to uplight from locations within the steel railing, the capsules of the standing rockets are illuminated with 575W quartz halogen spotlights situated on a building parapet and five 15-ft.-tall towers placed at strategic distances from each rocket. The Gemini is capped with white light projected from three pairs of spotlights on towers located roughly 75-ft. away, while groupings of one to five fixtures light the others – except the uniquely shaped Delta – from positions on the towers and atop a building.
BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL
The sole rocket on-site to displayed horizontally, the Saturn 1B is sculpted with a wash of blue on its sides and pools of white light on its underside. The juxtaposition of metal halide floodlighting against quartz halogen spotlighting adds texture and, noted Peck, “turned out to be the right solution, because the rocket looks like it’s traveling through space and catching some reflection from Earth.” Special blue metal halide lamps are also used to infuse the entire garden with an atmosphere of mystery and otherworldliness. Exhibiting a “space appeal” in keeping with the astronautical theme, 12-ft.-tall bollard-type fixtures scattered throughout the site lamped with metal halide sources and radiate the mood-setting blue in a 360-degree circle. Supplementing and defining edges of this “other world,” floodlights bathe an entrance sign and a building facade in blue light.
All of the fixtures that light the different segments of the rockets are separately circuited and controlled via a theatrical lighting system. A remote-control is provided for added flexibility and lighting sequences are programmed into the system for special events or educational tours. One routine fades on and Off each rocket in chronological order and then ends with all eight aglow.
As visitors explore the garden and admire the display, they are guided by drive-over fixtures recessed in the launch pads. Customized to emit light from one side and equipped with two 20W MRI 1s and linear spreadlenses, the fixtures create a fan of blue light that grazes the ground and reflects Off the stainless-steel railing. Resulting illuminance levels range from an average 0.5 fc for pathways to 1 fc for steps or grade changes.
Although additional capabilities and effects are planned for the Rocket Garden. the response to its current lighted state has overwhelmingly positive. Likening the original site to a “parking lot of disused hardware.” Peck remarked that the “lighting really brings the rockets to life,” and although unintentional, the combination of red, white and blue lends the Garden a patriotic flair. He added. “It really demonstrates the power of lighting to bring facilities to life and showcase them.”