B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 1


OMBUU Lift 1

The following first appeared on nasaspaceflight.com, back on June 8, 2011, in the forums area at https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=25455.0 where it still lives as of this writing, mid-summer 2017. My utmost thanks go out to the people hosting and maintaining that excellent website, as well as all of the people who frequent the various forums there. As of right this minute, the topic I created in that forum is showing 73,824 reads, which gives me to believe that it holds sufficient interest to go ahead and put it here, in 16streets.com, along with all the rest of my MacLaren's Stories stuff. That, plus the fact that the internet is such an ephemeral goddamned thing, and I'd hate to wake up one fine morning, only to discover that for inexplicable reasons, that whole website was suddenly gone, like so many other websites have disappeared over the years.

So it's now July 06, 2017, and I'm hedging my bets a little, and placing it all here on 16streets.com, just in case, and doing perhaps just a little bit of additions and touch-up work on some of the wording here and there, as I go.

As usual, this one is going to take some time, as there are a lot of pictures, and a lot of words, and most of the words haven't been written yet, so please bear with me as things creep along, ok?


Hey there everybody.

I did five years on B Pad working structural steel when it was being converted from a Saturn V & Saturn 1-B, Apollo Mission pad into a Space Shuttle pad, during the first half of the 1980's decade.

I was in construction management, and had a camera permit, and took a lot of photos, many of which wound up in photo albums that have been squirreled away, all these many long years since the early 1980's.

Recently, my son advised me that the nice people who frequent this bulletin board might be interested in taking a look at things, as seen from the inside, as the structural elements of Launch Complex 39-B were erected.

I just took one of the pages from the photo album and placed in on the scanner and scanned it at 300dpi (the maximum resolution that my not-so-wonderful scanner will do), and it actually came out better than I expected it would. The resulting image (OMBUU arm lift) weighs in at 6megs and I'm going to try to upload it with this message. If it works, and anybody shows an interest, I can upload a lot more.

I've got an amazing amount of additional photos, including all of the swing-arm lifts and a lot of general shots of the pad from on the pad deck and up in the structure of the RSS, and it might be fun to share it with everybody. I've done a little poking around on the internet, and there does not seem to be anything else like these shots that is freely available.

In the top left photograph of the below image, standing in front of the OMBUU (Orbiter Mid-Body Umbilical Unit) Arm facing the camera, are Howard Baxter, Wade Ivey, and a guy who's name eludes me. I'll try to identify people in shots if possible, and if anybody else can help with identifying anybody in any of these scanned photographs, by all means do so.

So here goes, and if it works, and if you nice people like it, there shall be more to come.


Well....... it apparently worked, and the nice people liked it, and so I went ahead and started in on things. First photo below, and we'll do a photo a page, from here on. Click on these images to get the full-size original, if you'd like. Below the image, you will find additional commentary not included in the original forum postings.

And I guess I'd better address the issue of acronyms, while I'm at it here, right up front.

NASA is in love with acronyms. Deliriously, in love, actually.

And after a while, when you've worked out there long enough, the damn things just kind of soak into you, without you even realizing it.

And this series of essays is going to just be riddled with acronyms, and I've already hit you nice people with a few, and there's a lot more coming from where those came from.

And who wants to write "Rotating Service Structure" over and over again, when you can write "RSS" over and over again? Nobody, that's who. Acronyms can be painful to the uninitiated, but they're for a reason, and make for a little less long-windedness here and there, so I'm going to speak my own language (most of the time), and I do hope you pick up on what I'm doing to help, with the introduction of each new acronym, but nobody can remember all of this crap, so I've created a handy page of every goddamned acronym that NASA was using during the Space Shuttle program, and I'm going to place a link to that page right HERE. And I'll put another link to that page of acronym definitions down at the bottom of every page in this series, too.

Once you get to the acronyms page, you're going to have to find what you're looking for on your own, ok? The total size of that document, acronyms and definitions together, is only 50,000 words, so I'm sure you won't have any trouble at all with any of it.

More on the individual photographs above.

Top Left: Why anybody ever called the OMBUU an "arm" I'll never know. It wasn't. It sat flush against the face of the RSS, did not swing or pivot on its own, and was certainly not longer than it was tall or wide. But everybody always called it the OMBUU arm. Ok, fine.

The OMBUU was fabricated off-site (By SMCI [Specialty Maintenance and Construction Incorporated] in Lakeland, I think, but that memory is a bit faded and could easily be wrong.), and trucked to the pad and deposited near the foot of the pad slope, where it sat for a pretty good while, prior to getting lifted and attached to the RSS.

When it came time to take it up to the pad deck it was very unceremoniously lifted by a crane and placed on the back of a common low-boy semi-trailer which had been modified in no way, and driven slowly up the pad slope with lots of us management types watching the operation, and a couple of ironworkers holding on to taglines attached to the top of it as it swayed and wobbled along, going upslope. I distinctly recall being horrified by the astoundingly causal approach everybody took to things, including all of the present and attending NASA oversight (It was their arm, right?), and found myself constantly wondering what, exactly, a 200 pound ironworker was going to do with his tagline should the flexing and side-to-side rocking of that low-boy have gotten to the point where the damn thing was going to tip over. But of course nothing of the sort happened, and all of my fears and worries turned out to be unfounded, and I'm not an ironworker anyway, so I kept my big stupid mouth shut and everybody did their job, and that was that.

Howard Baxter (red shirt, left) was the "Pad Daddy" and he was a fearsome sonofabitch, and brooked no bullshit from anybody for any reason, but was also rock-solid, straight level and true, FAIR about things. I liked Howard a lot. How he may have felt about me, I do not know, but he at least put up with me to the extent of letting me do my job whenever he was around, instead of summarily running me out of the TT&V field trailer up on the pad deck, as I was witness to with certain other less-fortunate souls. He was lead for Boeing's TT&V (Terminate, Test, and Validate) group who held the contract with NASA for seeing to it that things were installed correctly on the pad, and seeing to it in a most thoroughgoing and rigorous manner.

Wade Ivey (tallest member of the little three-man group, center) owned Ivey Steel, for whom I worked. Wade was an ex-ironworker who started his own steel erection company and became quite successful with it out on the Cape. He was easy to get along with, but knew his shit backwards, forwards, and sideways, and nobody was going to get anything past him, ever, when it came to his company and his work operations. He succeeded as well as he did because he knew his shit, and was willing to put in the time to get it done, whatever it might have been that needed doing. He consistently turned a profit, getting contracts and doing work that others could not bid as low, and got it done per the plans and specs. Which pretty well sums it up, right there.

Our third member of the little three-man group, alas, must remain unnamed, as I am not worth a shit with names and faces. I do know that he was NOT John Bell, and it was him, and John, and Howard that you would most frequently encounter in the Boeing TT&V field trailer riding herd on multiple contractors doing a myriad of things in a bewilderingly complex and dynamic construction and modification environment, but damned if I can remember his name. Sigh. He was another one of those people you meet in areas where the general level of things is quite a bit higher than what encounter in daily life, on the street and elsewhere, and he was crackerjack at his discipline.

To the right, facing away, leaning against the OMBUU as it was just about to start floating away from the cribbing that had been supporting it as the lift commenced, an ironworker (perhaps Rayburn Chiles, perhaps not) is there to steady things as they start to happen. If the crane is not dead fucking center above its load, that load will "drift" as it breaks free from its contact with whatever had been supporting it on the ground. Although our assembled participants give no indication of it, this is a dangerous moment, and I'll leave it up to you guys to Google for what can occasionally happen when a lift goes wrong. It's not pretty, and people do get killed now and then. Which means we're dealing with a pretty ballsy crew here. Every one of these people knows exactly what's going on with this lift, knows the risks, and yet all of them are happy to trust their lives with the crane operator and the ironworkers who are working with him on the lift. High praise for everybody. Not as if they need it or anything, though. The already know exactly who they are and exactly how good they are.

Click the image for full size, and you can see a couple of ironworkers on top of the OMBUU, squaring things away with the sling that it was about to get lifted with. Maybe take note of the thickness of the wire rope that the legs of that sling are made of. The OMBUU was pretty heavy.

In the background, far left, you can see the cars that were parked in front of all the contractors' field trailers. You're looking down on them because the pad deck is roughly fifty feet above ground level. The pad's a very large object, and lots of times when you're looking at pictures of things on the pad its easy to lose your sense of scale. Everything is giant out on the pad. The Space Shuttle is giant, so everything that is associated with it has to be giant, too.

Behind the OMBUU, you can see a portion of Column Line 7, which supports the RSS (Rotating Service Structure, which is invisible, out of frame above it. The RSS had seven main column lines. Column line 1 was the Hinge Column which extended to the ground, around which the RSS pivoted, and Column line 7 was the far end of things, and also extended to the ground, and rolled on a special rail track, out and around the Shuttle, when service work was required upon it. Between those two column lines, the rest of the RSS was essentially a fifteen-story high-rise condominium building, hanging sixty feet above the ground, and the whole goddamned thing rolled, or more accurately swung like a cyclopean door of some kind. Impossible to describe. I need to shut up.

Top Right:

In a yellow hard hat is Rink Chiles (brother of Rayburn), Ivey Steel's ironworker general foreman for this project. Rink (his actual name was Reynsol) taught me an amazing amount about the business of real-world structural steel erection during the time we worked together for Ivey Steel. Rink was one of those deceptively country kind of backwoods sorts who could think circles around just about anybody he met, but never let on about it much, unless and until it was actually required as a job unfolded. There are times when I think it was all just a very coldly calculated deliberate act to give him the best possible footing whenever he need to ambush somebody to clear them from his path when he was working to get somewhere. Fiery disposition. Not to be crossed. Lethally intelligent. Does not play well with other children.

In a while hard hat, holding what appears to be a clipboard, is Jack Petty, tech rep for BRPH, who had another contract, completely separate and distinct from Boeing's TT&V contract, for engineering oversight of the construction and modification efforts that were ongoing when these pictures were taken. Ex-ironworker. Tough as nails. Sharp as a tack. Fair as it gets. Yet another one of those difficult no-nonsense people that I find myself drawn to and getting along with best, wherever I fetch up. Jack was the other principle in the infamous Techno Redneck story that I've placed elsewhere on 16streets.com.

In this image, the OMBUU is now clear of the ground it is gliding just above, controlled by the hands of the crane operator, who is being directed and reported to by the ironworkers. The OMBUU now hangs freely suspended from a wire rope descending well over a hundred feet downwards from the end of the crane boom, completely unseen, far above it. The damn thing weighs more than your house and yet it sails along smoothly a mere foot or so above the ground, as if it was a child's toy. There shall never be any way that I can properly convey the professionalism and expertise of the crews that do this kind of thing for a living. No fucking way at all. Hats off to every one of you sonofabitches. In the background, the RSS above, and the FSS Fixed Service Structure) to the right, loom in all of their bizarre complexity.

Bottom Left:

The OMBUU has by now reached the place from where it is to be raised straight up, prior to being deftly, delicately, and dangerously worked into its final resting place, hard up against the support steel that is waiting for it, a hundred feet up amongst all that confusing welter of structural steel above it. It has just begun its upward journey, and the ironworker in the red shirt closest to the center of the picture is hauling pretty strongly against his tagline, working to keep the damn thing in place, where it belongs, as it rises. On the far side, Jack Petty is keeping an eye on things, and it's all in the hands of the crane operator at this point.

In the background, partially covered by the OMBUU on its right, the Hinge Column for the RSS can be seen. That thing was a complete story in and of itself. But not now. Above the OMBUU, more of the RSS is coming into view, including the OMS Pod Heated Purge Covers, partially visible left side, top edge. Maybe take note of the size of the crane hook, red, hanging down from the top edge of the picture in the center, and compare it with the people you see elsewhere. Heavy stuff. Lotta heavy goddamned stuff all over the place.

Bottom Right: And up it goes. Howard and Wade are over on the left side, discussing something or other, and everybody else has positioned themselves out from under the suspended load, even as our red-shirted ironworker continues to give it his all, one-footed by now, on the tagline.

In the distance, the big Manitowoc crane which is performing the lift is now visible, and in front of it is the crowd of people who always find a way to come and view operations of this sort, only a few of whom actually belong up on the pad deck at this time. Of note is the individual in a blue hard hat, farthest right, ever-so-casually leaning back against the handrail that surrounds the edge of the Flame Trench. This is deeply stupid, and is a dead giveaway that this person has no business up here on the pad deck, now or any other time. That's a fifty foot sheer drop to flat concrete, invisible in this picture, right there behind him, and if it turned out that the handrail post was rusted near-through at the bottom, or perhaps the ironworkers had cut it completely loose in preparation for some modification or other and it was just sort of "resting" there, or who the hell knows what else, then he's a dead man. Never lean against the handrail, ok? Just don't do it. Stay away from that shit. Leave that shit alone.

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