Crawler repairs pick up – Constellation press ahead with Pad 39B demolition

by Chris Bergin

Replacement power supplies for the two grounded Crawler Transporters (CT1 and CT2) have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), allowing repairs to take place ahead of STS-133’s scheduled rollout. Meanwhile, Constellation Program (CxP) managers are pressing forward with plans to demolish Pad 39B’s structures, with work set to be begin shortly.

Crawler Transporters:

Both CTs were grounded, following a suspected lightning strike on CT-2. Engineers found damage to the recently installed “special electrical equipment” after a routine checkout, with problems associated with the control boards for the servo valve on the JEL (Jacking, Equalization and Leveling) system.

Both CTs are now undergoing a replacement of their JEL power systems, with the hardware arriving at KSC a few days ago.

“An engineering review board met to review the recommended repair options for CT1 and CT2,” noted the NASA Test Director (NTD) report into the status of repairs (L2). “Replacement of the power supplies for the JEL, propel, and steering systems along with additional electrical modifications were approved.

“CT1 is anticipated to be back in service mid-September, with replacement of the CT1 power supplies is anticipated to be completed and the CT back in service by to support MLP-1 (Mobile Launch Platform) move from East Refurb to VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) HB-2 (High Bay 2) by 9/2 as well as rollout of STS-133 on 20/21 September.”

CTs and Ares I ML:

The MLP-1’s move relates to preparations to transport the recently completed Ares 1 ML (Mobile Launcher) to a new site.

Using both of the Crawler-Transporters for the operation, CT-2 will move the Ares I ML the relatively short distance to its new home at the east refurb site – once MLP-1 vacates the area – where it will be lowered down on to mounts.

Prior to its move, instrumentation on the CT will weigh the new structure – which is rumored to be heavier than expected due to a number of modifications – ahead of it being hooked up to the utilities which are located at the new site.

As far as any future use for the Ares I ML, the closed-to-the-media ceremony for the structure revealed managers are intent on utilizing it for a future vehicle, should Ares I fail to live on – as is likely via the on-going political discussions into NASA’s future budget and direction.

A large amount of costly modifications would be required to allow a vehicle – other than Ares I – to utilize the ML, especially around the launch mount area.

“We celebrated the culmination of five years of hard work and dedication with the 345-foot Mobile Launcher structural completion ceremony. The KSC team delivered a project that is technically excellent, on time and within budget. It truly is a fine piece of equipment,” noted one memo relating to the ceremony (L2).

“I want to assure you that although this may have been built for a specific rocket, we are going to make use of it. Like a lot of work with Constellation, it draws on the lessons and legacy of our past programs and will be applied to our future programs.

“From the top, it’s just a beautiful view. Kennedy is an amazing place, and you get to take it all in from up here. You’ve got the launch pads, the VAB, the Shuttle Landing Facility, a wildlife refuge. It really is phenomenal. But, it wasn’t meant to be just a viewing platform, and we’re going to put it to work with its intended purpose.”

The move of the ML was set to take place last week. However, following the CTs being “grounded” – along with next month’s rollout of STS-133 to Pad 39A – this is now likely to take place sometime in October. Interestingly, STS-133’s rollout will gain data that will aid a future launch vehicle.

“Rollout Instrumentation: An Engineering Review Board met and approved installation of instrumentation to measure crawler/transporter loads in support of future vehicle design efforts,” added NTD notes. “During STS-133 rollout, sensors installed in VAB HB-3 floor and the Utility Tunnel at Ordnance Road will measure STS/MLP/CT loads.

“During rollback after STS-133 launch, sensors in the crawlerway and CT shoes will measure CT/MLP loads. In addition, resilient mats will be placed on the crawlerway tracks at Ordnance Road to determine if mats may be used to replace asphalt. Completion of the testing is not mandatory and will not be a constraint to rollout.”

The most likely ‘future vehicle’ that will be seen riding down the crawlerway sometime in the next decade will be a SD HLV (Shuttle Derived Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle), with elements of the current Constellation Program (CxP) actively working on the new architecture.

The Constellation Program itself remains alive while the Program of Record (POR) is in effect, although they have already been informed of large budget hit via the current plan – prior to the approval of the HLV money in the refinements to the FY2011 budget proposal.

“On the budget frontier we’ve got operating plan together for FY10 and it seems to have stabilized a bit just in time for us to receive the operating plan guidance for FY11,” noted the latest Staff Senior meeting memo (L2). “We got that late Thursday and we put together an initial set of targets for the projects on Friday to roll out and it’s a sizeable decrease. 

“The good news is we have money next year for Constellation, but the bad news is that it’s about half of what we thought we were going to have in FY11.”

Pad 39B:

Signs Constellation is still very much alive and kicking was also seen in the upcoming “construction” plans for KSC, with managers confirming they are pressing ahead with the demolition of Pad 39B’s Shuttle structure – such as the Fixed Service Structure (FSS) and Rotating Service Structure (RSS).

“NASA is proceeding with this Constellation-funded project to demolish the fixed service structure (FSS) and rotating service structure (RSS) at Launch Complex 39B, and the resulting ‘clean pad’ will support 21st Century Space Launch Complex planning by providing needed flexibility for future KSC launch vehicles,” added the monthly construction notes (L2) this month.

“In February 2010, the demolition contract was awarded to LVI Services out of New York, and notice to proceed was issued June 28.”

Ironically, it was a lack of Constellation Program money that led to notes in 2008 that the structures would remain in place – with the now mothballed “Roller coaster” Emergency Egress System (EES) for Ares I being built around the pad – until at least the first full-up flight of Ares I, as seen in scanned images from documentation (L2) at the time – see left image.

The removal of the iconic structures at the highly historic pad are not being taken lightly, with efforts to preserve the “important fixtures”. The work is likely to take around 12 months to complete.

“In preparation for demolition, the KSC Historical Preservation Office has taken the necessary actions to document and preserve the unique history of these important fixtures, and United Space Alliance has been working diligently throughout the past few months to remove hazardous systems and safe the structures,” added the notes.

“Because of the hazards involved in this work, the entire LC-39B pad perimeter has been designated as a construction area. During demolition, LVI may utilize laydown areas inside the pad perimeter fence and directly outside the access gate.

“Also, please be conscious of oversized loads accessing the site. These operations will be coordinated ahead of time to ensure minimal impact to KSC operations and personnel.”

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