CRAWLER / TRANSPORTER == how a Shuttle got to the Launch Pad
January 3, 2012 by petecrow
Here was the complete 3-part package: The Crawler, on bottom, was two stories. The Transporter was on top of the Crawler and was three more stories. On the top of the Transporter the Shuttle was attached. This photo is of the Atlantis on the Crawlerway.
NASA has two Crawlers. They are usually parked at the yard adjacent to the Orbiter Process Facilities and across the street from the VAB. Sometimes one is parked at a yard on the roadway to Pads 39-A and 39-B where those visiting the Visitor's Center can see them on their way to a viewing stand.
The Crawler/Transporter is a behemoth. This is the carrier which took the fully assembled Shuttle with its fuel tanks attached to the launch pad.
Consider these basics —
Weight: 2,721 metric tons (6 million pounds)
Length: 40 meters (131 ft) wide, 35 meters (114ft) long
Miles: 2,526 miles (1,243 miles since 1977)
The Crawler has her own special road known as the Crawlerway.
She only runs on this specially built dual highway of Mississippi rock between the VAB, her storaage yards and Pads 39-A and 39-B. Each time she heads out for a cruise on her highway, she so completely flattens the rocks on the roadbed that the rocks must be “fluffed” after each trip, and replaced, on average after she’s been over them ten times.
Each cleats on each of her eight tracks weighs one ton.
Getting a Shuttle to the Launching Pad was a two step process.
Terry Berman is manager of Crawler Operations. Previously he was in charge of Pad 39-B which has been torn down and will be re-purposed for still-to-be-determined later space missions.
First the Shuttle was towed to the Vehicle Assembly building from its hangar (known as an OFP — or Orbiting Processing Facility). In the VAB the shuttle was harnessed in the Transit Aisle and then hoisted 500 feet to the top of the VAB, and then moved laterally into one of two “High Bays”. The shuttle was then lowered and secured to the Crawler/Transporter.
The Crawler and Transporter are two separate pieces. The system, in use since the Apollo Moon program in the 1960s, will survive to serve the next generation of space vehicle. The vehicle with its tracks is the base. The Transporter is secured on top of the Crawler, and then a vehicle is secured to the Transporter.
Once a vehicle is safely secured, the Transporter sets out for the launch pad at eight-tenths of a mile per hour. Unloaded it can do about 2 mph.
The Crawler tilts.
As the Crawler climbs the final yards to the launching pad, it climbs a hill. As it climbs the Crawler has internal devices which tilt the Transporter keeping the Shuttle level (otherwise there is a risk that it would fall off). Once the Crawler has delivered the Transporter and the vehicle to the launch pad, it drives away. The vehicle is then launched a few weeks later.
Entry to the Crawler yard is through a tightly controlled fence, inside a tightly controlled area. The last use of a Crawler was to move a launching device built for the now-cancelled Constellation program to and from Pad 39-B in November 2011. The Crawler, while they will be carefully preserved and maintained, may not be used again until 2017. NASA appears to have little, if any, support from President Obama and his administration.
The control room. Surprisingly the Crawler has only one floor and inside it is almost all engines. It can be driven from either end in small cabs where drivers switch off every two hours. Systems are monitored here when the Crawler is moving. A team also walks with the Crawler on the ground and visually observes it when the Crawler is in motion.
The inside of the Crawler which is accessed by climbing a rickety stairway is almost all engines except for the control room. The Shuttle is not driven from the control room, but systems are monitored there.
A catwalk circles the entire second floor of the Crawler. There is no first floor, and the third floor is a flat surface where the Transporter is attached. This photograph is from on end of the Crawler looking back toward the other end.,
Cockpit of the Crawler. There are two cockpits, one on opposite ends allowing the Crawling to be driven in both directions. It takes about 18 months of training to become a driver. When driving, drivers generally drive about two hours, then switch off. The drive from the VAB to the launch pads generally took 6+ hours at less than 1 mph.
Portapottie. A temporary bathroom is discretely tucked on one end of the Crawler. This is the only restroom on the Crawler.
The Crawler's eight tracks are massive. Each clete, specially made by only one factory, weighs 2,000 pounds and yes, they do wear out and have to be replaced.
This is the second of the two cockpits on the opposite end of the Crawler from the cockpit picture above. The cockpits and the driving controls (just below) appear identical.
Have a seat and let's go. There are no speed limits on the Crawlerway, but then again top speed of the Crawler is less than 2 mph. The driver has no seatbelt.
The cockpit is small, but has room comfortably for the driver and a second person. This photograph was taken from the middle of the Crawler on the "second' floor. There is no first or third floor.
The Crawler stands tall enough that autos and trucks can easily drive underneath. Fully loaded with a transporter, the Crawler stands five stories high. When photographing the Crawler and Transporter with a shuttle secured to it, the media was taken to the fifth floor of the VAB where they were level with the top of the Transporter and where their photographs appears to be at ground level, but were actually more than 50' or five stories above the ground..
Pete Crow, who is 6'0", stands under exactly in the center underneath the Crawler to get perspective to the Crawler's massive size.
This photograph is taken standing on the ground and looking up at the Crawler.
This is the exact 180-degree view from the photograph just above.
Carol Anne Swagler stands on one of the two pebble covered tracks which serve as the Crawler's highway to the two launch pads. Ms. Swagler, a veteran newspaper woman, was working as a photographer for an Oklahoma newsapaper, The Grove Sun Daily. In the waning days of the shuttle program, Ms. Swagler was frequently accredited to photograph the shuttle and other NASA launches at the Cape. The Grove Sun Daily, unusual for a small daily, sent reporters and photographers to cover the space program frequently, all the way back to the Apollo 17 moon launch in 1972; its community had a NASA sub-contractor. In the background over Ms. Swagler's shoulder is the Vehicle Assembly Building. The Crawler and shuttle are heading toward Ms. Swagler -- she had walked on ahead. If she had not moved -- which she did -- the Crawler would have flattened her and there would have been no more trips to the Cape for Ms. Swagler.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
tell me MORE — read more about the Crawler/Transporter on the NASA site HERE
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.