S&S Space Shot prototypes: Part 8 of our Freefall Series

S&S-Sansei started as S&S Sports, Inc., a company from Logan, UT that supplied bungee jumping and trampoline equipment to the industry.  In 1995, they launched its first mass-market amusement park ride: the Space Shot. Invented by Stan Checketts, co-founder of the company, the idea here was to get a reliable thrill ride that would fit the smallest plot of land possible. This ride would be the ideal solution for landlocked amusement parks looking for a new thrill ride at low running costs. The solution found was a steel lattice tower with four large columns at each corner. Inside, five or nine tubes are installed, with the central one containing a piston connected to steel cables. The other pipes are connected to a storage tank located near the ride. Those steel cables run down the side of the tower and are connected to the ride car.

The cycle initially went like this: Riders boarded the car and lowered the padded shoulder bar. The primary contact point is the hips, and for most riders, their shoulders won’t touch the top part of the restraint. They then buckle a seatbelt that goes from the front of the seat to a steel male part welded to the restraint.  The ride operators verify those belts, followed by the car lifting off the ground for weighting. During that time, the bar’s hydraulic cylinder lock, and ride operators have to do a second verification to make sure the restraint is properly secured

Once all the riders are secured, the tower operator pushes the control that fills the four cylinders with the correct air quantity.  This is determined by the car weight once loaded with passengers. The Orbite at La Ronde in Montreal, QC (the old Action Park tower), and Space Shot at Suzuka Circuit Motopia (Suzuka, Japan) were the last ones to operate with this mode, with the La Ronde model updated around 2017-2018. All the other 1996 models were upgraded at a later date to have flush seatbelt/restraint verification at the bottom.  Then, the car is lifted, weighted, and immediately launched right after. This is the standard operational mode for all later towers. 

The air is then released from the four cylinders to the center cylinder, which gives a smooth and intense and acceleration. This pushes down the piston, and this is, in effect, a powerful launch to the sky, with riders only taking a few seconds to reach the top. Then, the air gradually escapes from the cylinder with a release valve, and this gives the subsequent freefall and bounces. Those bounces get smaller and smaller until the car is at the bottom as the air pressure levels off. There, four hydraulic plungers collect it and lower it for loading.

Now, the first two towers to open in 1995 at Reino Aventura (Mexico City, Mexico) and D&D Adventures at the Wisconsin Dells had a smaller seating unit and could only accommodate eight passengers in Mexico and four passengers at the Dells. Two riders sit on each side of the tower, and in the case of the four-passenger model, only two sides are occupied. Those rides stood 180 feet tall. The seating unit rolls on small rubber tires on the four collumns at each corner of the tower. Those rides last unique feature was that they used restraints sourced from nearby Arrow Dynamics.  

Footage of the Space Shot at Reino Aventura starts at 8:24.

http://www.thecoasterkings.com/ located this amazing footage of the ride at Reino Aventuro.

The Reino Aventura tower was removed after the 1999 season when Premier Parks (now known as Six Flags) rebranded and renovated the park. They were expecting larger crowds and the lone eight-passenger tower replaced with three brand new ones called Kilauhua. The D&D Adventures tower was sold in the late 1990s to Magical Midway. Located on the world-famous International Drive in Orlando, FL, this served as an anchor for the Family Entertainment Center (FEC) and renamed the Space Blast.

In 1996, S&S Power further refined the design by designing two new towers configuration and developing their own restraints. The most common today can accommodate 12 passengers in either 3-3-3-3 or later 4-2-4-2 configurations and the larger one 4-4-4-4. Furthermore, Cedar Fair wanted to increase capacity for the Worlds of Fun (Kansas City, MS) installation. The single 12 passenger tower is only capable of 360 passengers per hour in the best of cases. S&S doubled that by designing a new double tower linked at the top by a lattice structure that also serve as a nice billboard for the ride or park. Detonator opened that year and was the first double freefall tower in the world. Detonator is 210 feet tall with the top structure, but the cars only reach the 150 feet level.

The original Space Shot design for the 1995 and 1996 installations only used one cable connection on each side. Given that, the car only went up 2/3-3/4 of the total tower height. In the case of the La Ronde first generation model that initially opened in 1996 at Action Park in Vernon, NJ, the car only reach the 150 feet level with the tower itself 200 feet tall. What happens is that when the car reaches the end of the cylinders, it still tried to go up, and this, in effect, makes passengers feel an intense negative G spike.

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