Monday, February 18, 2008

Space Shuttle Endeavour on the Launch Pad, Ready for March Launch

A space shuttle rollout at Kennedy Space Center is incredible technology on the move. The crawler transporters that ferry the vehicle to the launch pad have been in service since the Apollo moon landing era. They carried the massive Apollo/Saturn rockets.

The two tracked Crawler-Transporters previously used to move the assembled Apollo/Saturn from the VAB to the launch pad are now used for transporting Shuttle vehicles.
Transporter Statistics

* 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)

KSC has 2 crawler-transporters. Each vehicle consists of four double-tracked crawlers, each 3 meters (10 ft) high and 12 meters (41 ft) long. Each of the 8 tracks on a vehicle contains 57 shoes per track and each tread shoe weighs about .9 metric tons (one ton). Click here to see the crawler moving a shuttle .

The Crawler/Transporter is powered by 16 traction motors powered by four 1,000 kw generators, driven by two 2,750hp diesel engines. Two 750 kw generators, drived by two 1,065 hp diesel engines are used for jacking, steering, lighting, and ventilating. Two 150 kw generators are also used for MLP power.

When they were built, the KSC crawlers were the largest tracked vehicles ever made. (Surpassed by the Bagger 288 German excavator). They move the Mobile Launcher Platform into the Vehicle Assembly Building and then to the Launch Pad with an assembled space vehicle. Maximum speed is 1.6km (one mile) per hour loaded, about 3.2 km (2 miles) per hour unloaded. Launch Pad to VAB trip time with the Mobile Launch Platform is about 5 hours. The crawler burns 568 liters (150 gallons) of diesel oil per mile.

The top of the orbiter is kept vertical within plus or minus 10 minutes of arc, about the diameter of a basketball during the journey. Leveling systems within the crawler keeps the platform level while negotiating the 5% ramp leading up to the pad surface.

The height of the crawler is 6 meters (20ft) to 8 meters (26 feet) adjustable. The top deck is flat and square, about the size of a baseball infield, 27 meters (90 feet) on a side. Two operator control cabs, one at each end of the chassis, are used to control all crawler systems.

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