B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 16


Odds & Ends 1

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Odds & Ends

Top left is the back of the towers, taken from pad deck level behind the RSS. Look closely and you'll see an ironworker gazing back down at you, and another waving to you. You may also notice little squares of wood, sticking out from the steel here and there. These are "floats" and are sheets of plywood about four or five feet square, stiffened with 2x4's, tied to the structure with heavy rope, wherever there's work to be done. Step off on to one, and it will move underneath you. Look over the side, and it's a sheer drop of a hundred feet or more. Totally exposed to the wind and cold. If you work in a cubicle, or perhaps somewhere else, and do not like the environment, maybe take a shot at working someplace where they tie floats to the steel and see if you like that better.

Top right is Jack Petty.

Bottom left is Wade Ivey's daughter, Tammy, goofing around in the parking lot by our field trailer, with the towers behind her.

Bottom right is the button panel inside the FSS elevator.


Additional commentary below the image.

Top Left:

Back of the towers.

Give it two or three hundred percent zoom, please, there is, as usual, stuff going on.

The back side of the RSS is to the right, with a pair of large white air ducts running vertically most of the way to the top, and farther away, at a different angle, is the FSS.

I count four floats on the back of the RSS, and two ironworkers, one each near both of the lowest floats. On the left, you're getting a raised arm and a wave, and on the right, you're just being looked at. The work was strenuous, dangerous, and long, but there was always time for a few lighter moments, such as this one. That might be Gene Lockamy on the left with his arm in the air, but I cannot say that with full confidence. On the right? I do not know. Sigh.

This shot was taken before the framing for the new PCR Anteroom (security checkpoint, air-shower, bunny suits in sealed plastic bags), which you had to pass through to enter the main area of the Payload Changeout Room itself. The old anteroom was a cramped affair stuffed up against the back left corner of the RSS, with barely enough room for a functionary to sit at a small desk, check your badge to make sure you had the good numbers on it that were required for access beyond that desk, verify that you had your bunny suit (which at that time, over on A Pad, B Pad not being active yet, you had to go down inside of the concrete hill into the Pad Terminal Connection Room and requisition the bunny suit), let you through the small closet of an air shower, into yet another space with benches where you put the bunny suit over your normal clothing, and thence on through, finally, the last door that opened directly into the PCR floor. Whether or not this picture was taken at the very beginning of the installation of the new anteroom, which was a capacious thing that ran along the entire back side of the RSS, I cannot say. But three of the four floats visible would be at the correct locations and elevation for tying the floor framing steel for the new anteroom, the pieces of which may or may not have already been laying over on the other side of things in the shakeout yard, to the existing structure of the RSS, so who knows?

In the bottom left corner of the image, you can see the platform framing for the RBUS, which was located on the FSS Struts that tied the FSS to the Hinge Column, and from which, on the other side, the Centaur porch would have protruded out toward the flame trench. The RBUS itself is nowhere to be seen.

Almost exactly in the middle of the image, extending on out on the left-hand side, you can see the framing for the emergency egress slidewire baskets (which there were only five of, back at this time) access platform on the back side of the FSS. Zoom in really close, and all five of the slidewires can be seen extending out of frame, above the complexity of the platform framing, to the left. We furnished and installed the whole thing, and once we were done, of course it had to be functionally tested.

Astronauts, after all, would be in those baskets, fleeing for their lives subsequent to something awful developing with their fully-fueled, insanely-explosive, and incomprehensibly-dangerous rocket ship, trying to get the hell out of there, as far as possible as fast as possible, before the rocket ship blew itself clear to hell, killing everyone so unfortunate as to still remain nearby it in the process. So the damn thing had to work. I always thought it was a quite a bit less than optimal system, but it was all they had, and fortunately, they never had to use it in a real-world contingency situation.

Anyway, back to the functional test, I lobbied hard and long with anyone and everyone, from NASA on down, for literal months, to be allowed to ride in one of the sonofabitches, come functional test day. But I was rebuffed, and when that day came, the baskets were loaded with sandbags to simulate the weight of the crew, and cut loose, unoccupied. I watched from right out in front of our field trailer as the baskets slowly moved away from the FSS, flying more or less in formation, down the slidewires, with the sounds of the pulleys that the baskets hung beneath first whirring, then whining, then squealing, higher and higher and higher in pitch as the baskets picked up speed, going downhill. By the time they got to the nomex nets that braked them, down in the safety bunker area, they were moving pretty damn fast, and that sound has stayed with me for a lifetime. And the feeling of being pissed off because I wasn't allowed to go for a ride in the fucking things has stayed, too. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Look closely at the bottom right corner (as viewed in this image) of the side of the slidewire baskets access platform facing away from the FSS, and it appears as if there is an I-beam connected to that corner, extending to the right, and down at a bit of an angle, partially blocked along its length by a bit of a contraption, the shaded lower side of which can be seen, before that beam extends on and disappears into the complexity of steel on the RSS, below and a fair bit left of our ironworker with upraised hand. But that I-beam is not connected to anything on the FSS, and it's just an accident of perspective that makes it look like it is. Structural steel can be very confusing in that regards. Really gotta look at the stuff, to see what's what, and where's where. Go find this beam, dammit, there's a story that goes with it, and the contraption, which is in fact a large wire-rope drum-hoist with its steel frame and the long cylinder of its drum running perpendicular to the direction of that I-beam that it's hanging from, which is in fact the monorail beam that the small (And of course we know all about "small" now, don't we?) trolley which supports the hoist runs back and forth on.

Really, go find this crap. Zoom in, dig around, and find it. It's confusing, but if you're zoomed in somewhere above two-hundred percent, you should be able to pick it up. The end of the hoist drum closest to us as we view it is a square thing, with a kind of round "button" protruding just a little bit farther in our direction. Take note of the longness and the thinness of that hoist drum. For some reason, they did not want the wire rope to wrap around the drum of this hoist over itself, and instead spec'd out a drum that was so long that the wire rope could spool around it from one end to the other without ever wrapping around on top of itself. A fair amount of trouble was gone to, to get this thing this way, and I really could not tell you what the deal was, or why this particular hoist had to be this way.

And, in truth, it wasn't just this particular hoist. There was a whole set of them, sprinkled around in different locations on the RSS, with monorail beams extending out beyond the envelope of the RSS, that they could use to pick up large, heavy, awkward objects, and bring them directly to this or that particular location, without having to worry about the impossibilities of threading things through the labyrinth of steel, elsewhere. Just roll the hoist to the outboard end of its monorail beam, lower the hook to the ground, hook on, lift the load up off the ground with the hoist till it's up in the air where it needs to be, pull the hoist inboard along the monorail till it was above the RSS platform framing where you wanted it, and let the load down right where you needed it.

Ok. Fine. Why are you belaboring this thing, MacLaren?

Good question.

Please note that our hoist drum is sitting outboard of the RSS envelope. Outboard of all that welter of other steel that makes up our RSS. Platforms, stairs, cable trays, pipe supports, walls, ducts, wires, you name it. No end of stuff. Mechanical, electrical, structural, who the fuck knows. Right now, the hoist is happy as a little clam could ever be, sitting out there in splendid isolation, away from all that confusion of stuff farther inboard.

And, although you cannot see any of them, every last one of the rest of that group of hoists which we furnished and installed, were also in their outboard positions, sprinkled invisibly amongst the steel of the RSS.

And how, you might ask, might I know such a thing?

Another good question.

I know this, because at this time, none, as in not one, of these hoists actually worked and we were embroiled in a battle with NASA over them, and NASA was attempting to cause us to remove every single one of them from the RSS, at our own expense of, if memory serves, over eighty thousand dollars for the full set of them, and replace them with the exact same make and model of hoist, from the same manufacturer, with the same capabilities, and the same everything with one single exception. The replacement hoists needed to have drums that ran parallel, not perpendicular to their supporting monorail beams.

Just that one little detail. One eency weency little bitty detail.


Yet another good question.

Well, you see, it turns out that the wise NASA engineers who very carefully spec'd out hoists with drums that ran perpendicular to their monorail support beams failed to take in to account all of that "Platforms, stairs, cable trays, pipe supports, walls, ducts, wires, you name it" that the hoists would be rolled in toward, when it came time to place their loads upon the decking of whatever RSS platform they needed to deposit that load upon, and in fact, the poor hoists never had a chance, because their nice long drums, protruding well away from the line of the monorail beam above them on both sides, would smash into god knows what, long before the damn hoist was anywhere near where it needed to be in order to let its load down on to the deck plates or steel bar grating where it needed to be.

The hoist drums had to be clocked around parallel with the orientation of their supporting monorail beams to keep them from sticking out too far on both sides, or otherwise they would interfere with existing elements of the RSS, be completely blocked from further travel toward their intended destinations inboard on the RSS upon encountering the first interference (and there was more than one, and sometimes many more, along the length of each and every monorail), thus rendering them completely unusable.

And so, the NASA engineers being the NASA engineers they were, they immediately attempted to push the full cost, materials and labor, as well as offering no schedule relief, onto us, claiming it was all our fault.

Whatta bunch of swell guys, huh?

With friends like these.....

And so, despite the fact that every single hoist was clearly, consistently, and precisely shown on every single drawing and rendering of them, as well as being specifically spec'd out with perpendicular drums in every instance, that charming bunch of fuckwits, assholes, and thieves worked mightily to hide their own mistake by attempting to foist it off on Ivey Steel.

Are we beginning to detect a pattern in these stories yet? North Piping Bridge? KSC-STD-C-0001? And now the Monorail Hoists?

Yes indeed, boys and girls, there really is a pattern.

These fucks were trying to hurt us and I'll be goddamned if I've ever been able to figure out why? WHY?

And this ain't the half of it, kids.

You'll never know. You'll never know the half of it.

So we fought 'em like the dogs they were, and in the end we beat them and they had to pay for the whole thing, time, material, and labor, as well as admit to their own stupidity, in a very public way. But it took a surprising amount of time and effort to do so. They just dug in on it, and would not let go. Until we beat them into submission.

But why? Why? Why must people and organizations be this way?

I'm sure I'll never know.

Top Right:

Jack Petty in front of the door that led to his end of the BRPH field trailer, where he worked, and where they kept the all the drawings, specifications, records, and everything else. Jack was structural, but they had mechanical and electrical in there too, and I worked with those people as well, some of whom were Good, and some of whom were..... Over the years, I paid too many visits to that trailer to count. It was over at the other end of the parking lot, a short walk from our own field trailer. Jack shows up in a fair amount of these photographs. We were on opposite sides of the house, me being a contractor, and him being the tech rep for the customer, but we worked exceedingly well together as a team, and solved no end of problems working as a team. Jack was refreshingly free of the bullshit that adhered to so very many other people we had to deal with out there, on both sides of the house. Ex-ironworker. Knew his shit backwards, forwards, and sideways. His approach was very similar to mine: What's the answer to this question? And then go and implement the goddamned answer in the most efficient manner that will further the aims of the program to build NASA a goddamned launch pad regardless of political, social, business, or any other pressure. I've already said it, but I'll say it again. He was a Good Man.

Bottom Left:

Wade Ivey's daughter, Tammy, goofing around and mugging for the camera dressed in an ironworker's toolbelt and hard hat. This photo was taken right out in front of our field trailer where my office was located. Whenever I walked outside into the parking lot and looked to the right, absent Tammy, this is what I saw.

Bottom Right:

FSS elevator, button panel. Lousy shot, ambient light, no flash, sloooow shutter, but take a gander at the labels next to those buttons.

You'll never see anything even remotely resembling it, anywhere else you might ever go, in your entire life.

  95 MLP - RSS 107' LEVEL

As if I needed any further reminding of the nature of the insanely amazing and fantastic place I'd fallen into by complete stupid luck. But there it was anyway, every time you went up the tower.

Also, those elevations are all wrong. In the interests of reducing confusion when people went from A Pad to B Pad, the numbers in use for A were faithfully reproduced over on B. But the pad deck on B was five feet higher, so every one of those numbers is five feet too low. A small thing, to be sure, but a very real thing, too.

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