Atomic Awesome

Minuteman’s Launch Room

We seem to have a fascination with abandoned control rooms on this site. I can’t blame us. They are quite extraordinary. Some of these abandoned control rooms you can visit. For example, the Launch Control Room Delta-01 at the Minuteman National Historic Site.

The Minuteman missile gave the USA it’s first fast-response ICBM capability in October 1962. Previous ICBMs had been liquid fueled, which meant that they were stored empty and fueled when the president gave the go-ahead to blast the Commies to smithereens. The Minuteman was a solid fuel rocket and was ready to go at a moment’s notice. Within half an hour, Moscow would be a lake fed by the Moskva River.

The Minuteman missile was deployed from Malmstrom AFB in Montana, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Each base had between 150 and 200 missiles assigned to it that were in launch complexes under the American prairie and spread out over hundreds of miles. For instance, Delta-01 at the Minuteman NHS is 70 miles from Ellsworth AFB and is one of the closer facilities.

Today, the Minuteman NHS in South Dakota gives visitors the opportunity to look down into a silo. The launcher closure having been locked in a partial open position in accordance with START. A dummy practice Minuteman II sits where a live missile would have sat until 1991 when START forced the deactivation of the Minuteman I and II. You can go into the Launch Control Center, look into the silo, and see the support building.

However, that only scratches the surface of the launch complex. There are mechanical spaces in the launch tube and other equipment not accessible by the tour., however, gained access to these areas and took some amazing panoramic photos you can manipulate until you feel like you’re there. Head over to their Minuteman site here and prepare to waste the rest of the day there.

While you’re there, look at what else they have. Yes, that’s interior view of the HMB-1 and Sea Shadow you read about last week.

[Image Credit: National Park Service]

  • gearz1

    The capability of that room would likely fit on a handheld device today. That said what a color combination,red seats, greenish instruments, and what is behind the blue curtain?

  • Jon

    Surprisingly similar to the launch room in WarGames.

  • So what's the deal with the seat tracks in the floor and the seat belts?

    • The facility is designed to withstand a near direct hit by a nuke, but the ride could get a bit bumpy.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        WRONG its more of an indirect hit. That it WAS designed to withstand a direct hit is correct but considering that most of these silos cannot withstand a direct hit from a more current yield standard means its incapable of withstanding a direct hit in to-days world. Still, its better then nothing in a Madd Madd World.

        • You say potato, I say whatever.

  • My girlfriend calls me Minuteman; it's not a compliment but it has a very clever triple meaning.

    • Just so long as you deliver your payload.

      Edit, in search of the third meaning. Does she pronounce it "my-noot" man?

  • I've toured one of these – at Whiteman AFB, also home to most of the stealth bombers. It was remarkable. A number of things stood out, but most especially the hardening. The bunker, some 100 feet underground, was divided into living quarters for two and the command center, which was behind a massive 12 inch thick steel door that was so perfectly counterbalanced I could move it with one finger. The steel floor was built on huge dampers to protect the sensitive equipment in the event that all hell was breaking loose above.

    Once a month, Whiteman is open to the public for viewing the bombers. If you're fortunate, you may be able to talk them into giving you a tour of the command center.

  • Don't press the red button.

    • CaptianNemo2001

      Press the red button… PRESS IT!!!!

      /Presses red button and it pops back up.
      /Presses red button over and over until button jams in down position…
      /Walks away from button and finds door locked…

  • I love this kind of thing, just like I love every kind of underground thing. I still haven't gone to the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, AZ, close to where I live. I understand that they offer a six hour tour of the whole complex, way deeper than the basic tour. I want to do that, real bad. They show you the whole thing, all the way down and back up again. Should be fascinating, to say the least.

  • Bob Brousseau

    The photo of the Launch Capsule just blew me away. In 1973, as a young Sergeant, I was one of the Flight Security Controllers at Delta-01, 10th Strategic Missile Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana. It was my first Air Force assignment and like nothing I'd ever seen before, certainly not growing up in New Hampshire. Used to go down to the Launch Capsule and shoot the breeze with the Launch Officers, who were only a couple of years older than me. Really enjoyed checking Missile Sites in those old Huey helicopters! Winters were brutal out there and I didn't think I'd ever go back. In 1992 I finished my Air Force career right back where it all started, back at Malmstrom as an ICBM NCO Code Controller, working in Missile Control (DO9) and swapping my Security Police badge for a Missile Badge. Strategic Air Command was an special command to work in!

    • First and foremost, thank you for your service. I'm glad I could bring back some memories.

      I love this stuff, too. I did my internship at Boeing Missiles & Space in Peacekeeper (MX) Systems Support in the late 1990s. I also got to do a little work on Minuteman III. It's amazing the destructive power of these missiles, and even more amazing that we never had to use a single one of them.