B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 20


IAA Lift 3, Orbiter Access Arm in the Flame Trench

Forum commentary here:


Intertank Access Arm Lift page 3

Fastening the IAA to the FSS.

Me and Steve Parker, who went on to do well in the Ironworker's Union International, if I was told arightly.

The Orbiter Access Arm, getting prepped down in the bottom of the north side of the Flame Trench.


Additional commentary below the image.


Connectors, connecting.

And of course, just going by the looks of things, this one was a bitch to finish off.

The ironworker sitting high, with his leg outstretched and his boot on a gusset plate, is holding an oxyacetylene torch. Why? Why would something like that be needed to connect a pair of properly-designed steel objects together? The answer is that it would not, and should not, be needed.

Some damn thing was not built precisely like the original plans dictated it be built, and the alteration never made it into the final plans which were furnished to the contractor to allow him to accurately bid and then prosecute the work, and there's no telling what or where the issue is, but issue there must be, or otherwise we're not going to be taking all the time and effort to drag the torch kit half way up the goddamned FSS and then cut something off of something else.

But there he sits, and that's that.

Also, have a look at the connection itself.

It's the part of things immediately to the right of the lower ironworker's hard hat, that looks almost like a stack of cinder blocks.

Something funny going on here, too, I'm guessing. Normal connections are not this complicated-looking. This thing looks almost as if somebody re-ran the stress calcs after the IAA had already been built, and discovered that the loads going through this connection were going to be greater than they initially figured. Maybe the original calculations were strictly static loads, and they went with that, until somebody asked "What happens when the exhaust from the left SRB hits this thing?" That kind of stuff happens far more often than you might imagine. Who knows? Whatever the hell it was that happened, it caused them to make some very difficult weldments out of one-inch steel plate, with five horizontal stiffener plates, welded to a second vertical backing plate, along the length of the vertical plates that were to take the bolts that would make the actual connection, and they had to do it on both sides, IAA side and FSS side, of the connection. This thing just looks stupid, and I'm sure it was no end of fun for everybody to get their hands inside those fucking gaps between the stiffener plates and try to fish the bolts through the holes in the vertical connection plates, and god help you if there's any mismatch in hole locations and you might need to put a little force on the bolt to get it to slip all the way through, and then once that's done you have to figure out how to torque the sonofabitch properly, and apparently by hand, and this whole thing is just a monumental piece of shit.

Look to the right of the ironworker's hand holding the torch hose and you can see a couple of the bolts they're going to have to be getting inside those ridiculously cramped spaces and torquing up. Structural bolts are a different beast, and they can be difficult to deal with in confined spaces. But here we are, and this is what we've got to work with, so I suppose we'll just have to work with it.


Steve Parker, another Good Man, and myself, and it looks like we'll be charged with rape and murder for fucking off and killing time. Oh well. Alas, I have no recollection of who it was that took this picture with my camera. Sigh.

Please notice the platform we're standing on.

Look close at my left hand, resting on the handrail of that platform, and you'll see there's an open gap protected only by a couple of chains. Why?

The reason why is that when the RSS was rotated around into the mate position, this little platform would match up with a corresponding platform coming over from the RSS, and the chains would be unhooked and you could then walk straightaway across from the FSS to the RSS via the complete catwalk that this pair of matched platforms constituted. But with the RSS rotated back to the de-mate position, this platform lead nowhere, and on the other side of those chains was a sheer drop to the pad deck. So you always had to pay attention to where you were, to where you were going, and to where, where you were going might have gone, 'cause sometimes where you were going wasn't there anymore, and you could get into trouble when it wasn't there. There were other FSS/RSS crossover catwalks made up of sets of similarly matched platforms at other elevations, and you really had to watch your step when you were walking around up there. One wrong turn, one little moment of inattention, one little moment of looking over your shoulder to see who called your name, one little moment of scanning the blueprints you were carrying with you as you went to go look at some fucked up problem or other, and.....

Look at those chains again, goddamnit. Look at where the catenary of the top chain is. It's well below hip level, and if you happened to blunder into it, it would also give in the direction you were traveling in, before suddenly jerking taut, and the result of that would be you, well overbalanced with the majority of your weight and inertia above the top of that motherfucking safety chain, center of mass extended out beyond the end of the steel bar grating, and, just for good measure, a second chain below to prevent you from reflexively throwing a leg and foot far enough out to catch your incipient fall (nevermind there's no more fucking platform out there for a foot to land on anyway), resulting in your being flipped over, out into the dreadfully empty space just beyond the end of the platform, .....gone.

How goddamned hard would it have been to pull the location of that miserable fucking chain back in from the extreme death end of the platform far enough to allow you a bit of additional platform to get flipped over on top of if you hit it wrong? But no. Not gonna happen. What it was they were afraid of in not doing that, I never learned, and I'm guessing there was no fucking reason. They just did it because it looked like the right thing to do, and none of those idiots ever even considered the physics of somebody actually hitting their little piece of safety theater the wrong way. I always hated those fucking "safety" chains, and could never understand 1.) why they were designed and built the way they were, as opposed to an actual working physical barrier of some kind, and 2.) why we never lost anybody over the end of one of them. But we never did (or at least to my own limited knowledge we never did), so all the safety guys who designed and implemented them wound up looking good, and I'm sure they all got the recommendations, promotions, and pay raises that they all so well and truly deserved. The assholes.

This particular platform was up at the 220' level, and provided access to the roof of the RSS above the PCR, up in the area of the RCS room, and the Hoist Equipment Room. Nice view from up here, all the way around.

Also, look to our left, almost to the edge of the frame, and you'll notice a bit of a post, slightly darker in shade than the FSS perimeter column that it's not quite centered in front of. The top of this post comes up to about chest level on Steve and me, and has a sort of "fixture" up on its top, ending in a nice flat round horizontal plate of steel. This thing is a camera mount. They had them all over the damned place on both towers. Now that you know what they look like, maybe poke through these images again, to see if you can find any more of them. This one's on a fairly tall post. Some of them were just the "fixture" part, attached to other things. It all depended on what it was that they wanted to see, and where they had to mount the camera to see it.

And oh god, this just reminded me of a goofy story regarding these things.

To begin with, a camera is not just a camera. Far from it, in fact. Or at least out on the launch pads it's not. Some of the "cameras" were Operational Television cameras, which were part of a system that monitored the whole place in real time using closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras. Turns out it's hard to find a sensible picture of one of them on the internet that's freely available from a source such as NASA. So here's what I found (which is a really good picture of what it looks like as the RSS closes in on the Shuttle, as it's being rotated around into the mate position). Zoom in, full size, or even larger, and get a look at 'em, and in particular, the lowest one with an arrow pointing to it, as it is quite typical of the breed, and is exactly what the following story is referring to, ok?


Anyway, this stuff was being installed on the towers, by others, and at some point the system went live, and we were all warned to "Smile, you're on candid camera," and that was that.

Ok, fine. Whatever.

Well, it turns out that since these Operational Television Cameras are so goddamned distinctive, they're really easy to find if you're walking around on the tower looking for them, and since they were intended to be serviced by normal people in normal ways, they were really easy to get to.

And one fine day, one of the ironworkers took it into his mind that he'd have a bit of fun with this stuff, and embarked upon a little journey across the length and breadth of the tower looking for these sonofabitches, and then came up from behind each one of them unseen and surreptitiously reached around and slapped some tape over the front end of it, thereby blinding it.

Somewhere, down in some darkened control room lined with video monitors, probably over in the Launch Control Center, the lights began to go out on their TV screens.

And since the tower is large, and our perpetrator wasn't in any kind of hurry while doing what he was doing with his roll of tape, things proceeded quite slowly down in that darkened control room somewhere, one camera at a time, until finally somebody realized that they were in the process of somehow losing their entire system, in slow motion, and they must have blown some kind of whistle and action was taken.

Technicians and perhaps a security operative or two were dispatched to the pad, and they immediately discovered that all of their goddamned OTV cameras had been taped up on their front ends, and matters were put right, straightaway, and in the end all was well, and so far as I know, none of the culprits were ever fingered, nor were they ever brought to justice.

But I've always wondered what it must have been like, down in that darkened control room, as things crept slowly forward, one camera at a time, until realization finally dawned on them that something was afoot.

I'm sure I'll never know.

Bottom Right:

That's the Orbiter Access Arm down in the bottom of the flame trench, getting prepped for its eventual lift to its final location up on the FSS. The OAA was the last thing solidly attached to the earth that the astronauts touched, prior to entering the Space Shuttle on launch day. For some reason, that always gave me a kind of funny feeling about the OAA, and made it noticeably different from everything else up on the tower. I had an altogether different level of respect for that goddamned OAA than I had for anything else out there, and I could feel it whenever I got near or on that thing.

The people that flew in the goddamned Space Shuttle were hard fucking core, and as bad as any bad-ass you'll ever cross paths with in your life. These people knew that the fucking Shuttle might not work, and a couple of times it didn't, and they placed their own physical asses on the line every time they got inside of that motherfucker and felt the engines light up, down there beneath them.

It flat fucking does not get any more hard-core than that. Period.

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