B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 9


Payload Cannister First Fit Check

Forum commentary here:


Payload Cannister, first lift. Fit check, test of the 90 ton hoist, and just a general rehearsal of things, looking to see if there are any hidden problems or peculiarities. That vehicle that carries the Cannister out to the pad was a really weird critter, and had about a million wheels. Bottom right image is Jack Petty, who took my picture as I stood on the Lightning Mast, and who shared the deranged misadventure with me at A Pad. Jack was the tech rep for BRPH, who were the NASA-side architects and engineers that watched over the construction effort we were involved with on the pad. Jack was a rough tough ex-ironworker with a heart of gold. But don't tell him I said that, 'cause he'd hate it if you did.


Additional commentary below the image.

Top Left:

This is the Payload Cannister rolling ever-so-slowly up the pad slope on its transporter, and it's how payloads were placed on board the Space Shuttle.

The payload cannister was filled up elsewhere (and for a bit more insight into one of those elsewheres, you can go here, for lots and lots of words on yet another structural steel construction project I was involved with at one time) with whatever it was that they were going to fly into space, sealed up tight as a drum, and then placed on this thing with a zillion wheels, that could turn completely around, if memory serves, within its own length, and had a suspension for all those wheels that had to be seen in action to be believed. Whatever the hell it was going across, no matter what its slope was, the top of that thing (I'm sure it had an official name, but I do not recall it) would remain perfectly level.

And so, extra-tall and tippy things like the payload cannister could be placed on top of it without worrying that it would tip over, and rolled cross-country, up the pad slope and underneath the RSS, where it would sit with the cannister on top of it, while they rigged the cannister.

It moved very slowly.

Zoom in on the full-size image, and you can see the cab the driver sits in, kind of indistinct in shadow, on the front left corner, complete with door and windshield.

We always got a kick out of seeing that thing, wherever it was that they may have been driving it around, 'cause it was just so goddamned weird.

This was the first functional test of the whole payload cannister system as it related to Pad B, and it was a pretty big deal.

Our RSS had to be right, or otherwise, no cannister for you, Mister Space Shuttle.

Handling the payload cannister was one of the primary reasons for building the RSS in the first place, so on this day, we had arrived in some serious Truth or Consequences territory, and everybody wanted this sonofabitch to work, which it did.

Off in the distance, in the background, Pad A can be seen, and there's an orbiter on the pad and the RSS is mated to it. I do not recall which orbiter it was, alas.

To the right of A Pad, just past the power pole near the foot of the pad slope, a gray rectangular structure can be seen in the far distance between that pole and the dark round ball of the A Pad lox tank. That's Pad 41, and it's where I went after we handed B Pad over to NASA. Lot of fun and games there, too, but no pics. That's Air Force territory over there, and they were much less inclined to permit any shenanigans with a camera than NASA was. But holy shit some of what went down on the tear-out and refurb of Pad 41 just simply defies belief. Those guys started out with what turned out to be a very bad premise, and by the time everybody realized that, it was way WAY too late, and all parties concerned just had to sort of grit their teeth and keep on grinding forward, and it was a goddamned nightmare, but somehow, in the end, we got the damned thing done on time. The budget, however, was not so fortunate, and I was Change Order King over there for the better part of five years. Yeeks!

Top Right:

Ok, here we are, up on top of the pad deck. This event occurred fairly late in my tenure out there, as can be seen by giving the RSS a good look, where you can see all of the swing arms (Gox Arm, Orbiter Access Arm, and Intertank Access Arm) already installed on the tower, as well as the Centaur Porch, which has not yet had the RBUS installed on it yet. So we're fairly late in the game, but not to the end of things, quite yet.

Pretty good attendance this day, as can be seen by all the people sprinkled around in the picture.

Note that we're now looking at the "back" side of the cannister transporter, and it's got a driver's cab back there, too. In truth, the thing did not have a front side or a back side. Didn't matter which way it was pointed. Driver gets in and "go." Real simple that way.

This shot gives you a pretty good sense of scale for the size of the payload cannister, which was about sixty some-odd feet tall. And remember, pretty please, all the large-scale stuff that fits inside of the cannister, will eventually be placed inside the Space Shuttle. That goddamned Space Shuttle was big.

Bottom Left:

And now I've moved up on to the RSS, from what appears to be the main framing elevation inside the RCS Room. We're looking pretty much straight down, and it's about 160 to 170 feet down to the pad deck from here, and the orbiter mold line at the 135' level, with a pair of roundy-looking cutouts for the OMS Pods, as well as the notch between them for the tail of the orbiter, can be seen clearly.

The lifting block on the 90-ton payload hoist can also be seen clearly, along with the spreader-beam below it with its wire-rope lifting pendants that will attach to the two lifting points that stick out as little stubs on either side of the cannister, which you can see on a line more or less even with the near-side edge of the "NASA" lettering on the cannister. That spreader beam is a bit complicated-looking because it has a another pair of attach points that will be connected to the fixed boom pendants that hang down from up inside of the top of the RCS Room. We'll see pictures of them later on here, and they were pretty damn stout, as far as wire-rope fittings go. Once the cannister had been lifted into place by the hoist, those pendants would get attached, the hoist would be let down just a bit until they were taking the full load of the cannister's weight, and then the hoist would be taken loose, with its 24-part-line business-end lifted up and out of the way, whereupon the cannister, and everything in it, would be in suspension, supported solely by those pendants. We furnished that stuff, and it was a Big Deal, and it all got the living hell proof-tested out of it, and all the wire rope and swedged ends and all the rest of it had about a full bookshelf's worth of certification paper before it was all said and done, and yeah, I was the one who's job it was to make damn good and sure that all of the proper copies had been submitted and approved, and then other copies kept in our field trailer, and then even more copies delivered to various parties from our prime contractor all the way up to NASA itself, and all points in between, and everybody was quite excited about every last bit of it on account of the potential for a severely catastrophic event should one of those pendents, god forbid, ever decide to fail with a Shuttle on the pad being serviced with its payload.

The two small triangular-looking "antenna" kind of things on either side of the cannister, up near its very top, weren't antennas at all, but instead they were the supports for the cannister "guide shoes" and they can be seen in a couple of the other images on this page. Each guide shoe had a Teflon-faced little (well, it wasn't really little at all, but you know what I mean) "skid" on it, and these "skids" would need to match up perfectly with a pair "guide rails" which were nothing more than a couple of well-aligned I-beams, one of which can be seen clearly just outboard of the white surface of the left-hand Orbiter Side Seal Panel, which has been retracted (inward, in toward the body of the RSS, from its vertical hinge-line which is more or less flush up against that guide rail) out of the way. The other guide rail is hidden behind the right side seal panel which was welded in place, rotated 90 degrees outward into the extended position, after they determined that they couldn't hit the orbiter with it even if they'd tried to, as I discussed on the previous page. This whole system, shoes and rails, had to be dead nuts or otherwise the cannister might bind on the rails while being lifted or lowered, or perhaps wind up in some god-awful wrong place, and some of this stuff is just mind-numbingly unforgiving and it's all gotta be just fucking right and it all trundles around with a fifteen-story high-rise tower that's slung eighty feet up into the goddamned air, and holy shit but you cannot imagine how all this shit has to fit together and work perfectly, despite the fact that it's bigger than most ships, and not one single bit of that psychosis can be seen, determined, or discovered, by merely looking at things. Nothing stays put. Nothing sits tight. It's all over the goddamned place, all the goddamned time, and it has to fit together like the innards of a spring-powered wristwatch, every single time somebody rolls, moves, flips, rotates, latches, unlatches, slides, extends, retracts, mates, de-mates, or otherwise puts into motion, ANY of it. And yet it all works perfectly, every time.

Watching high-end work being done, and then seeing the results of that high-end work in action, is one of the most satisfying and pleasurable things you'll ever encounter in the world, although it does tend to give you a progressively dimmer and dimmer view of all those slackers, social-climbers, goof-offs, bullshitters, back-stabbers, half-laugh lie-smilers and other lower life forms that you find yourself having to put up with elsewhere in your life. Fuck those idiots. I know it can be done better. I've seen it done better. I've done it better myself. So how 'bout you just knock it off with your bullshit, right now.

Bottom Right:

Jack Petty. Another Good Man.

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