Crawler-transporter
Crawler-Transporter.jpg
Overview
ManufacturerMarion Power Shovel Company
Also calledMissile Crawler Transporter Facilities
Model years1965
Powertrain
Engine
  • 2 × 2,050 kW (2,750 hp) V16 ALCO 251C diesel engines, driving 4 × 1,000 kW (1,341 hp) generators for traction
  • 2 × 794 kW (1,065 hp) engines driving 2 × 750 kW (1,006 hp) generators powering auxiliaries: jacking, steering, lighting, and ventilating.
Transmission16 × traction motors, 4 per corner
Dimensions
Length40 m (131 ft)
Width35 m (114 ft)
HeightAdjustable, 6 to 8 m (20 to 26 ft)
Curb weight2,721 t (6,000,000 lb)[1]
Missile Crawler Transporter Facilities
LocationKennedy Space Center, Florida
MPSJohn F. Kennedy Space Center MPS
NRHP reference No.99001643[2]
Added to NRHPJanuary 21, 2000

The crawler-transporters, formally known as the Missile Crawler Transporter Facilities,[2] are a pair of tracked vehicles used to transport spacecraft from NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39. They were originally used to transport the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets during the Apollo, Skylab and Apollo–Soyuz programs. They were then used to transport Space Shuttles from 1981 to 2011. The crawler-transporters carry vehicles on the mobile launcher platforms used by NASA, and after each launch return to the pad to take the platform back to the VAB.[3]

The two crawler-transporters were designed and built by Marion Power Shovel Company using some components designed and built by Rockwell International at a cost of US$14 million (US$128.5 million in 2022) each.[4] Upon its construction, the crawler-transporter became the largest self-powered land vehicle in the world. While other vehicles such as bucket-wheel excavators like Bagger 288, dragline excavators like Big Muskie and power shovels like The Captain are significantly larger, they are powered by external sources.

The two crawler-transporters were added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2000.[2]

Specifications

Diagram of a crawler-transporter
Diagram of a crawler-transporter

The crawler-transporter has a mass of 2,721 tonnes (6 million pounds; 2,999 short tons) and has eight tracks, two on each corner.[1] Each track has 57 shoes, and each shoe weighs 900 kg (1,984 lb). The vehicle measures 40 by 35 meters (131 by 114 ft). The height from ground level to the platform is adjustable from 6.1 to 7.9 m (20 to 26 ft), and each side can be raised and lowered independently of the other. The crawler uses a laser guidance system and a leveling system to keep the Mobile Launcher Platform level within 10 minutes of arc (0.16 degrees; about 30 cm (1 ft) at the top of the Saturn V), while moving up the 5 percent grade to the launch site.[5] A separate laser docking system provides pinpoint accuracy when the crawler-transporter and Mobile Launch Platform are positioned in the VAB or at the launch pad.[6] A team of nearly 30 engineers, technicians and drivers operate the vehicle, centered on an internal control room, and the crawler is driven from two control cabs located at either end.[7][8] Before the launch the crawler-transporter is removed.

The crawlers were overhauled in 2003 with upgrades to the Motor Control Center, which houses the switchgear and electrical controls of all of major systems on board; a new engine and pump ventilation system; new diesel engine radiators; and replacement of the two driver cabs on each vehicle (one on each end).[7] As of 2003, each crawler had 16 traction motors, powered by four 1,000 kW (1,341 hp) generators, in turn driven by two 2,050 kW (2,750 hp) V16 ALCO 251C diesel engines. Two 750 kW (1,006 hp) generators, driven by two 794 kW (1,065 hp) engines, were used for jacking, steering, lighting, and ventilating. Two 150 kW (201 hp) generators were also available to power the Mobile Launcher Platform. The crawler's tanks held 19,000 liters (5,000 U.S. gal) of diesel fuel, and it burned 296 liters per kilometer (125.7 U.S. gal/mi).[1] Due to their age and the need to support the heavier Space Launch System and its launch tower, in 2012–2014 the crawlers were undergoing an upgrade involving "new engines, new exhausts, new brakes, new hydraulics, new computers"; CT-2 was further upgraded in 2014–2016 to increase its lifting capacity from 5,400 to 8,200 tonnes (12 to 18 million pounds).[4][9][10]

The crawlers traveled along the 5.5 and 6.8 km (3.4 and 4.2 mi) Crawlerways, to LC-39A and LC-39B, respectively, at a maximum speed of 1.6 kilometers per hour (1 mph) loaded, or 3.2 km/h (2 mph) unloaded.[8][11] The average trip time from the VAB along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39 is about five hours.[1] Each Crawlerway is 2 m (7 ft) deep and covered with Alabama and Tennessee river rock for its low friction properties to reduce the possibility of sparks. In 2000, NASA unearthed and restored an Apollo-era segment of the Crawlerway to provide access to High Bay 2 in the VAB in order to provide protection from a hurricane for up to three Shuttles at the same time.[12]

Kennedy Space Center has been using the same two crawlers since their initial delivery in 1965. They are now nicknamed "Hans and Franz", after the parodic Austrian body-builder characters on Saturday Night Live, played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon.[13] In their lifetime, they have traveled more than 5,500 km (3,400 mi), about the same driving distance as from Miami to Seattle.[7]

Future use

Crawler-Transporter 2

NASA currently plans to use crawler-transporter 2 to transport the Space Launch System with the Orion spacecraft atop it from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B for the Artemis missions. Early in 2016, NASA finished upgrading crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) to a "Super Crawler" for use in the Artemis program.[10] NASA currently plans to perform a test rollout of the Artemis 1 Space Launch System and Orion on March 17, 2022 with the rollout for launch expected in May 2022 at the earliest. This will mark the first time one of the crawler transporters rolled a launch vehicle to the launch pad since STS-135.[14]

Crawler-Transporter 1

NASA had originally planned for crawler-transporter 1 to be used by commercial launch vehicles.[15] In April 2016, then Orbital ATK, now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and NASA entered negotiations for the lease of CT-1 and one of the four Vehicle Assembly Building bays.[16] Northrop Grumman has originally planned to use CT-1 to transport their OmegA from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B. OmegA however was cancelled in September of 2020 after Northrop Grumman lost the National Security Space Launch contract to United Launch Alliance and SpaceX.[17] With no commercial launch providers willing to use CT-1, the future of vehicle remains uncertain.

Appearances in popular culture

The crawler-transporters have featured in television and movies. In a 2007 season three episode of Dirty Jobs, host Mike Rowe helps workers maintain a crawler-transporter and takes the vehicle for a short drive.[18] The crawler was also seen in the 1995 film Apollo 13, the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon and the 2019 film Apollo 11. Similar vehicles also appeared in the 2013 film Pacific Rim.

In the Fallout 3 video game add-on pack "Broken Steel", the US government survivors, The Enclave, have a mobile base built on and into a heavily modified crawler. In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, various units are called "crawlers" and feature chassis based on the crawler-transporters. In Asphalt 8: Airborne, 3 crawler-transporters drive over the space center French Guiana track.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Crawler-Transporter". NASA. April 21, 2003. Archived from the original on June 1, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Staff. "NPS Focus: 99001643". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. ^ Siceloff, Steven (September 28, 2007). "Kennedy Prepares to Host Constellation". NASA. Archived from the original on March 14, 2022. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Peddie, Matthew (September 5, 2012). "NASA's Historic Giant Crawler Gets a Tune Up for Modern Times (Pics)". Transportation Nation. Archived from the original on April 18, 2022.
  5. ^ "KSC-05PD-1322". NASA. June 15, 2005. Archived from the original on January 9, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
  6. ^ "Countdown! NASA Launch Vehicles and Facilities". NASA. October 1991. PMS 018-B. Archived from the original on January 9, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c "Crawler Transporter" (PDF). Return to Flight Spotlight. NASA (1). April 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 20, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Hollingham, Richard (June 26, 2019). "Apollo in 50 numbers: The rocket". BBC. Archived from the original on 2022-03-17. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  9. ^ Bergin, Chris (November 24, 2012). "All hail the Super Crawler – CT-2 put through its paces ahead of SLS". NASASpaceflight.com. Archived from the original on April 18, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Gebhardt, Chris; Bergin, Chris (February 23, 2016). "CT-2 completes Super Crawler modifications for SLS program". NASA Spaceflight. Archived from the original on April 30, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  11. ^ "Crawlerway to the Pad". NASA. October 6, 1993. Archived from the original on January 6, 2022. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  12. ^ Halvorson, Todd (August 13, 2000). "Shuttle Safe Haven Opens at Kennedy Space Center". Space.com. Archived from the original on September 20, 2005.
  13. ^ Sands, Jason (May 17, 2007). "NASA Diesel-Powered Shuttle Hauler - The Crawlers". MotorTrend. Archived from the original on March 13, 2022. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  14. ^ Wall, Mike (25 February 2022). "NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission, 1st flight of new megarocket, won't launch until May". Space.com. Archived from the original on April 8, 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  15. ^ Herridge, Linda (February 22, 2015). "NASA's Giant Crawlers turn 50 Years Old, Pivot Toward Future Exploration". NASA. Archived from the original on June 20, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  16. ^ Powers, Scott (April 21, 2016). "Orbital ATK picked to use NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center". Florida Politics. Archived from the original on August 3, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  17. ^ Sandra, Erwin (9 September 2020). "Northrop Grumman to terminate OmegA rocket program". SpaceNews. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  18. ^ "The Complete Dirty Jobs Show Guide: 2007". Discovery.com. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012.