Minuteman Launch Control Capsules

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages should be considered historical.

Workers installing reinforcing steel around a launch control capsule at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, November 1961

The large tube protruding from the capsule (partially obscured by the crane) is the crew escape hatch (to which another tube leading to the surface would later be attached). The large white tower at the opposite end of the capsule is an elevator shaft.

An aerial view of a launch control capsule at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, July 1962

Once completed, the capsules were buried and a blockhouse constructed atop the site, housing crew quarters and support equipment. Beginning in the late 1960s at Minuteman sites in Missouri, North Dakota, and Wyoming, this vital equipment was moved underground into hardened capsules adjacent to the LCCs. Each LCC controls a flight of ten Minuteman ICBMs and is manned 24 hours a day by a two-person Air Force crew.

Workers put the finishing touches on a launch control capsule at Ellsworth Air Force Base, September 1962

After being covered with layers of reinforcing steel, concrete was poured over the capsule to provide further strength. Each LCC is 59 feet (18 meters) long and 29 feet (8.8 meters) in diameter. The outer wall is 4 feet (1.2 meters) thick. Suspended inside the capsule is a box approximately 12 feet (3.7 meters) high by 28 feet (8.5 meters) long housing the equipment used by the crew to monitor and launch the missiles.

The blast door to the Delta 1 LCC, Ellsworth Air Force Base

Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Department of Defense