B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 32


Monorail Beam and Transfer Doors Beneath RCS Room, RCS Room Platforms, RSS Platforms, RSS Left OMS Pod Cutout

Forum commentary here:


Top left: Monorail beam and doors, just under the RCS Room floor. There's a story with this thing, and basically it was a whole lot of trouble and effort to fabricate and install this stuff, all jammed up underneath here, with a pair of doors that opened inward and had an unpleasantly weird fit, and right after we'd gotten it all in there, nice and pretty, they decided they didn't want the damn thing anymore, had us weld those doors shut, and that was that. Ah well.

And by the way, as you're shinnying along against the unyielding steel of those doors, with the loose floppy handrail safety chains brushing against you on the other side, it's a sheer drop to the pad deck. So you don't really want to be looking down as you work your way along this too-narrow bit of platform decking. The first time I ever set foot on a float was right here, several years before this photo was taken, going down about six feet of roped-up ladder which was resting on the float at its bottom end, beneath the too-narrow platform you see in this picture. The whole rig, ladder, float, and all, swayed alarmingly when you touched it, and swayed even more alarmingly when you put your full weight on it. But I went, and I did, and I survived, so I guess it's ok, right? Survive, I may have, but forget, I will not.

Top right: RCS Room interior platforms. Technically, this thing should have been called the FRCS Room, because it provided access to service the FORWARD RCS Thrusters, and there was a pair of ARCS platforms down on the bottom of the RSS to service the AFT RCS Thrusters, but for whatever reason, the RCS Room was the RCS Room and not the FRCS Room. Nobody ever got the two places mixed up that I ever heard of, so I suppose all's well that ends well, right?

Bottom left: Looking up toward yellow sheave block of the Hammerhead Crane. Lots of platforms and framing all over the place, including the curiously-shaped Crossover Platforms that surrounded the Hinge Column at various elevations.

Bottom right: Left OMS Pod cutout at the 135 level, with the left-hand PBK & Contingency Platform silhouetted against the sky to its immediate right.


Additional commentary below the image.

Top Left:

And once again, we're right back to one of my least favorite places on the whole tower, that dreadful little ledge of a platform which would support the rolling ladder that would give a technician access to the outside of the Space Shuttle cockpit windows and their immediate vicinity.

This picture appears to have been taken some time before the rolling-ladder support monorail beam had been installed, and gives us a good look at the external end of the other monorail beam in this area, the one that protruded outside of the PCR through a nit-picky cutout and seal arrangement in the pair of doors just above The Ledge.

Multiple items of interest in this area, with this system, which was a real pain in the ass to get properly fabricated and installed per the plans and specifications, thus necessitating far too many visits from yours truly to go up there and talk with the ironworkers about the latest Stupid Thing that was preventing the work from getting done.

I'm sure it was because I never liked the sonofabitch in the first place, and so, as punishment, the Fates decreed that I visit the damnable thing as often as possible.

Boy, I dunno.

Anyway, this monorail beam was designed and built for some damn thing that could be lifted on a hoist which ran below this beam, held up by a trolley attached to the bottom flange of the beam, and could travel across the boundary that runs between inside and outside the Payload Changeout Room.

But I never learned exactly what it was that they might be picking up from one side of these doors or the other, and then rolling it along for a bit before setting it back down on the other side, keeping in mind, that side was over sixty feet below this side. Never saw the hoist, either. It never got so much as furnished, nevermind installed.

And, when you think about it, what could they be wanting to place in this nasty little cramped space, nearly flush up against the windows on the goddamned orbiter, in the first place?

I have no fucking idea. None at all.

But, with or without an idea, I certainly can do a little estimating of things just based on the size and weight of the monorail beam, and holy good gollamighty, whatever the hell it was, it was HEAVY!

Zoom way the hell on in there, just as close as you can, and take a gander at the 'I'-shaped end of that monorail beam sticking out there into the sunlight.

It's an "S" shape (The 'S' standing for "standard" beam, which of course, by the 1980's, it wasn't anymore, and wide-flange beams had become "standard" and were what was used in almost all circumstances, but that's a story for another day).

And this particular S-shape is no flimsy thing in any regards whatsoever.

Just look at it. The flanges are narrow, but the web is deep, and if you look really close, you can see that they've welded a stiffener plate flat down along the length of the top and bottom flanges, making it noticeably stronger than it would have been on its own, which was already pretty damn sturdy for the purposes of holding up a wheeled trolley that would roll along the top surface of the bottom flange with some kind of hoist hanging down underneath it somewhere.

Look some more, and take note of the weirdly-contrapted support hanger it's being held up with, in suspension. It's a bizarre-looking thing, to be sure, but bizarre or not, it's also strong. And, as a final touch of obsessive compulsive lunacy, it would appear as if they've welded on yet another bit of stiffening steel, up high on the web of our S-shape, behind where the support hanger is attached, going from there on into the seal cutout, and who knows how much further beyond that? Is this even really a stiffener? I do not know. Is the bit that continues down from the hanger assembly, below the top flange of the monorail beam, some kind of stop for the trolley? I do not know. It's quite thick and substantial in construction, and seems a bit overmuch for a mere stop, but again, I do not know. And those funny-looking angle cuts on the hanger/trolley-stop/whatevertherfuckitis. Above and below the top flange. What's up with that? I do not know. I do know this whole damn thing is just weird, but beyond that..... nothing.

Hook the Empire State Building onto this thing and I'd bet the deflections would be less than the thickness of a sheet of paper for god's sake.

Hell, with this thing, you could pick up the whole world and have strength to spare, for the fucking Moon, or maybe even Mars.

So what the hell was it that they were thinking about moving around up here, nearly flush up against the ever-so-delicate TPS tiles and windows of the Space Shuttle?

I have no idea.

None at all.

But whatever it was, it was fucking heavy, I can at least tell you that much with confidence.

And this whole set of doors was just weird, all on its own, without ever bringing a requirement to be able to move blocks of lead by the cubic yard, or whatever the hell it might have been, into the question anyway.

Just below this very set of doors, just the thickness of this ridiculous ledge of a platform lower down on the structure, lived a set of bi-fold doors that were SIXTY feet high!

But noooooo, they didn't want to use those doors. Not at all. So instead of using those doors, they went ahead and made these doors, which granted whoever or whatever passed through them, access to the exact same place, which of course was the interior of the Payload Changeout Room.

What the fucking fuck?

The only thing I've been able to figure, is that it had nothing at all to do with the orbiter in the first place, and instead was somehow associated with the Payload Cannister, and granted them lift access to the PCR from somewhere outside, just above the top of the cannister (Why? Why would they want to be able to do such a thing?), when the cannister was hard-mated to the PCR and those sixty-foot high PCR doors were blocked by that hard-down cannister.

But I'm guessing, and in truth I have no goddamned idea at all.

Maybe one day somebody who knows will see this and send me an email explaining this stuff.

Fat fucking chance.

And we're not done yet, either. These doors were stout. Very heavy construction. Way stronger than outward appearances would give you to believe. Eight-inch channel-iron framing, if I recall. Heavy eight-inch channel-iron framing. Closely-spaced heavy eight-inch channel-iron framing. And they were then hung from a series of outrageously-sturdy all-welded "prison butts" (Can you believe the names of some of this stuff?).

Look close. Look very close at the far right-hand side of the right door in this image, level with the shadow of the hook on the snatch block. It looks like a hinge, but it's not. The doors opened inward, so clearly this could never work as hinge.

The hinges, the prison butts, were over on the far side of the doors, blocked from view, on the PCR interior side of things.

So if it's not a hinge, what is it?

It's a clevis deadbolt lock, made out of what has to be at least one-inch thick steel, with a one-inch diameter detent pin inserted into it, with a stainless-steel chain lanyard attached to the detent pin.

Look farther down, and you'll see another one, partially in shadow, just a trifle above the shadow of the lower handrail safety chain that's being cast upon the door down there.

TWO of these things on each door, either one of which would handily prevent Godzilla himself from forcing entry through these doors.


I do not know.

And then, just to put a cherry on top, they, after having gone to a lot of time, expense, and engineering, to get this set of Mystery Doors (they were actually called the Monorail Transfer Doors) installed and tested (Yes, we had to test the fucking things, of course we had to test the fucking things along with their hideously-overdesigned Limitorque oil-drilling-platform-class actuators.) in the first place, they had us remove the freshly-tested actuators and welded the doors shut! Boom, gone, no more doors!

And it wasn't any kind of fly-by-night light welding, either. We seal-welded them. They could have tack-welded the goddamned things. They could have left the detent pins in the deadbolt locks. Hell, they could have gone to the hardware store and gotten a lock and hasp, and put that on there, and that would have done the job, or they could have simply left the doors closed, but once again, nooooooo, that's not good enough!

Welcome to the land of Crazed Overkill, where they build steel bridges to missile specs. When they're not building them to bank-vault specs, or nuclear-war shock-wave survival-bunker specs.

Welcome to NASA.

But don't go feeling bad for NASA here, ok? Across the river, over on the Air Force side, working under Martin Marietta for the Titan IV Project, it was even worse!

And no, this is not the only Pad B story I have that deals with installing substantial and expensive things and then promptly tearing them right back out again, either.

I have more of these stories.

And one of them is a real beaut.

Stick around. We'll get to it here eventually.

Top Right:

Ok, let me wipe this foam away from the corners of my mouth, and we can proceed here.

There, that's better.

Let's go inside the RCS Room.

In this image, we find ourselves one level above the image to the left, inside of the RCS Room, looking down and out, in almost the exact opposite direction as the image to the left of this one.

If the RSS had been rolled around into the mate position, with an orbiter sitting on the pad, the nose of that orbiter would be filling up all of the space inside of those curved cutouts in the steel below you, as well as additional curved cutouts in the steel above you, that you cannot see very well at all from this vantage point.

But you can very well see the sharply-slanted removable handrails that would surround the reinforced carbon-carbon nose cap, keeping somebody from inadvertently stumbling and falling against it, likely destroying it.

This is the area where, had there been an orbiter on the pad, you would find the Forward RCS thrusters, and where you would service those Forward RCS thrusters.

The thrusters burned hypergolic fuel and oxidizer, which was almost invariably referred to on the job as simply "hypergol" with no further descriptive wording being required, since that word "hypergol" alone was plenty enough to put people on full alert as to the outrageous level of nastiness associated with the stuff.

Across the way, you can see a sort of intermediate-level braced fold-down platform with a set of fixed stairs leading to it, and sockets for removable handrail posts along the side facing you in the picture.

That platform, and a lot of other stuff in this area, isn't the same shade of dark gray that most of the rest of the steel on the towers was, because it was hot-dip galvanized, and the surface you see reflecting light isn't steel, or paint, but is instead, zinc.

Apparently hypergol and any rust that might form on less-than-perfectly-coated steel do not get along very well.

We were advised that if the hypergol was to come into contact with rusted steel, that steel would catch on fire!

So yeah, I guess having your steel catch on fire would not be such a fun thing to have to deal with, and they very reasonably coated the living hell out of any steel that was in an area where hypergol might get a little loose from its handlers and maybe go some place they'd rather it not have gone.

And yes, that very thing actually happened with a bird on the pad one time, and they managed to spill a significant amount of the stuff down the right side of the orbiter from the Forward RCS area before they managed to bring things under control. The good news is that nobody got killed, nor, so far as I know, injured, either.

Bottom Left:

And here we find ourselves down near the bottom of the RSS, looking up and across toward the FSS, which, except for a very small bit of the Hammerhead Crane way up in the top right corner of the frame, is blocked from view by the Hinge Column and all of the platforms and framing that hang between it and Column Line 2 on the RSS.

Bottom Right:

Looking back up toward the Hinge Column side of the RSS from the Column Line 7 side of the RSS, from the 112' elevation.

The curved and notched cutout in the steel to accommodate the OMS Pod, at level 135' is plainly visible in this image, and you can see that it's more than just a little bit complex.

The bottom end of the orbiter left-side, side seal panel, which extends vertically all the way up to that dreadful little shelf of a platform just beneath the RCS Room can also be seen, along with the small flip-up platform (in its nominal, flipped-down, position) which had to be lifted up out of the way to allow the side seal panel to be rotated (to the left, in this view) out of the way to allow the RSS to close in on, and mate with, the orbiter as it sat there on the MLP. Same deal down here, exactly, as up at the top end of things on the far end of that shelf with making room to allow the side seal panel to rotate out of the way.

Inboard (to the left in this image), toward the interior of the Payload Changeout Room, you can see one of the bi-fold PCR Doors (sixty feet high, everything's giant out here), folded in two, out of everybody's way.

At the base of the door, just beyond the curve of the OMS Pod mold-line cutout, you can see that somebody has a spider basket resting on the PCR floor.

I do not recall whose it was, or what it was being used for at the time, and, if it wasn't ours (and we almost never used them), I'm pretty sure I never did know whose it was or what it was being used for.

To the right of the side seal panel, silhouetted against the blue sky, can be seen the bizarrely-curved end of the monorail beam (out of the way, in its nominal flipped-up position) which supported the hoist that was part of the PBK & Contingency Platforms, the very tip end of which is all visible to the right of the side seal panel.

Below all of that, down one level at the 125' elevation, behind some dangling hoses and lines, a pickboard extends from the floor steel at this level, out toward the center of the frame, overhanging nothing at all, supported on its far cantilevered end by a single shackle and thinnish wire rope (which is clearly not in tension, doing any real work at this time).

Somebody is feeding more hose over the safety chains that run between the removable handrail posts. Pretty sure he's not one of our ironworkers, but I'm not dead certain about that.

And at the very bottom edge of the frame, near center, off in the distance, the water tank for the SSW water can also be seen.

Just another one of those nondescript photographs that upon first glance do not seem to be showing much of anything, but which, upon closer examination, reveal a beehive of activity and a multitude of individual points of interest.

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