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Florida Tech Dedicates Historic Vanguard Rocket Engine For Permanent Display

By Cliff Lethbridge

MELBOURNE, FL (February 10, 2001) - Florida Tech has unveiled a restored Vanguard rocket first stage engine which will remain on permanent display at the university's Melbourne campus. The engine was dedicated in the main hallway of the recently completed F.W. Olin Engineering Building, a state-of-the-art facility constructed in support of continuing research and education programs. Restoration of the engine, formerly used as a teaching tool in rocket propulsion classes, was funded by the Florida Tech Alumni Association. Today's formal dedication ceremony was headed by Dr. Jim Stoms. A retired professor and administrator at Florida Tech, Stoms once served as Test Conductor of the Vanguard program and as such was directly responsible for launching the rockets. He dedicated the engine display in honor of the tireless Cape workers who played a vital role in the history of the U.S. space program - and Florida Tech.

The U.S. entered the "space race" on January 31, 1958 with the Army's launch of Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite. The Naval Research Laboratory launched the second U.S. satellite, Vanguard I, on March 17, 1958. That same year, an eager visionary named Jerome Keuper founded Brevard Engineering College, created for the specific purpose of providing continuing education opportunities for Cape workers. Nicknamed "Countdown College" by certain members of the press, Brevard Engineering College in its early days frequently canceled classes to allow students and teachers alike to man their stations on the Cape in support of launch activity. For that reason, Stoms said he was proud to dedicate the Vanguard engine as a hallmark to the unique relationship between Cape Canaveral and Brevard Engineering College, which later evolved into Florida Institute of Technology, recently renamed Florida Tech.

The engine on display was designed to power the first stage of the Vanguard rocket. It was built by General Electric for Vanguard prime contractor the Martin Company. The Vanguard program concluded after 14 launches, and spare hardware - including the engine now on display - was left over. Stoms said he secured an agreement to have the engine donated to Brevard Engineering College as a teaching tool. After it fulfilled that role, the engine was kept in storage for many years. But, even after four decades of wear and tear, the Vanguard engine has been restored to an impressive condition. The dedication ceremony was attended by about 20 people. In addition to Stoms, Cape veterans Robert Gray (Vanguard Program Manager), Robert Adcock (Vanguard Test Conductor), Joe Freeland (Vanguard Second Stage Manager) and Norris Gray (Cape Safety Chief) attended the event.


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