B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 33


VAB between RCS and Hoist Equipment Rooms, Field Trailer From Top of RSS, PCR Interior Platforms, OMS Pod Cutout

Forum commentary here:


Top left: VAB in the distance, as seen from the top of the RSS, between the back of the RCS Room and the front of the Hoist Equipment Room.

Top right: The field trailers for all the construction firms that were working the pad. If you look close, you can see my boss's car, parked in the parking lot. It's a white four-door with a black top, right in front of a shorter trailer that has a darker roof. I worked in the trailer when I wasn't hanging by my tail from high steel up on the towers. And my boss, by the way, was one of the best human beings I've ever met in my entire life. I cannot express my thanks to him for all he did for me when I was working out there. Thanks, RW, thanks for every last bit of it.

Bottom left: Pad A in the distance, as seen from inside the Payload Changeout Room, with the top level of the PCR Extensible Planks fully extended on either side, butted together, filling the gap. The KU Band Antenna Access Platform support haunch that's mentioned in my psychotic misadventure story referenced previously, lived directly beneath the right-hand set of these extensible planks, up under this top platform level. As you might be able to see, the planks come out at an angle and do not butt together squarely. And it was this angle that got us. The drawing showed the extensible planks, and their support framing, as being without that angle. It's quite amazing what can ensue from such microscopically trivial first causes.

Bottom right: Looking down at the pad deck through the OMS Pod cutout on the RSS.


Additional commentary below the image.

Top Left:

This is just "one of those views" that you'd get every so often out on the pad, and if you weren't careful, you'd become completely numb to it and lose all of your sense of joy and wonder at being in such an impossibly cool place, getting paid for it, all day, every day.

You're way the hell up in the air, standing on the top of a cyclopean marvel made of cold steel, the RSS. Nevermind that a goddamned thing that size traveled overland every once in a while. I mean, yeah, that's enough to make your head spin right there, but that's not the point, or at least not right now it isn't.

You're over toward the Hinge Column side of things, looking toward the Column Line 7 end of things, and you're in a bit of a narrow shaded area, between the back of the RCS Room and the front of the Hoist Equipment Room.

All around you, heavy industrial-class work is ongoing, being done by a bunch of heavy industrial-class people.

Ladders, scaffolding, a large stand-up fan, wires, hoses, piping conduits, cable trays, brackets, supports, welded steel checkerplate decking, explosion-proof lighting (which, by the way, was constructed to prevent an explosion from inside the electrical box the light plugged into from getting out of that box, and creating a risk of fire or further explosions in the outside environment where the light was located), insulated metal paneling, mineral-insulated cable, and all the rest of it.

And there, nestled snugly right slap in the middle of things, three-miles distant, nearly blending in with the sky behind it in the haze, sits the fucking Vertical Assembly Building, which is where they built fucking MOON rockets for god sakes, one of which was fired from the very pad deck you were standing above, over a hundred and fifty feet beneath the soles of your disbelieving workboots!

All around you the work goes on, and grumbling and curse words are sprinkling the air, and the bosses are bossing, and the workers are working, and the engineers are engineering, and the inspectors are inspecting, and the safety man is trying to kill everybody, and nobody seems to be able to see past the end of their own immediate little circle of day-to-day worries, cares, minor triumphs and minor catastrophes, and yet there the goddamned thing sits, off in the hazy distance.

And if anybody else ever harbored thoughts such as this while I was out there, they, every last one of them, were very careful to keep that shit under wraps, hidden from everyone else around them.

And I'd get a little frisson of realization that I was, in certain very real ways, all alone, just me and the Moon Rocket Building, all alone together in a vast wilderness.

I cannot explain it.

I do not know why I even try to explain it.

Top Right:

And then you find yourself at the top of a stair tower, over toward the back side of the RSS, with a view down and to the west, looking at where you worked when you weren't walking high steel.

Where the paper was pushed.

Where the people who didn't work, worked.

Except that they did.

The ironworkers, the pipefitters, the electricians, and all the rest of the craft labor people never grew tired of expressing their contempt for those who came and went from within the mysterious confines of these field trailers, but without that end of it, there would have been nothing for them to show up on the jobsite for in the morning, and in fact, there would have been no jobsite in the first place.

It was all very deceptive stuff that went on down in those field trailers, and very many people indeed either failed, or chose not, to recognize it.

And if they sneered in your face about it, well then, ok.

So it must be.

But it was always much better to build a rapport with people, to learn to speak their language, even when they couldn't, or wouldn't, speak yours.

Let that go.

Establish a good working relationship with everyone that you could.

Trust is a two-way street, and the traffic must be allowed to flow freely in both directions, and anything that stood as an impediment to the best possible flow of that traffic needed to be removed if at all humanly possible to do so.

Or at least with the honest ones, the honorable ones.

Not every last one of them was honest or honorable, and you needed to be able to swiftly ascertain who was who, or otherwise they would hurt you.

And, in my own limited experience, the odds of encountering a Bad One were much greater, because there was a significantly higher proportion of them, down in those field trailers, down where the paper was pushed.

I tended to do a lot better, in a general sense, with people who wore a hard hat all the time, as opposed to those who only had to put one on occasionally, or even never at all.

Make of that, what you will.

Bottom Left:

Looking out of the Payload Changeout Room toward Pad A in the hazy distance, from level 5 of the PCR fixed interior platforms, with the Extensible Planks on that level fully extended, on both sides, butting up against one another in the middle, which is where, when things went Operational, you might find the extensible planks retracted, and a satellite, or some other piece of flight hardware cradled in the arms of the PGHM, being serviced, being readied for the next flight.

Just out of view, to the right, lies the area where the problem which precipitated the life-threatening near-miss that Jack Petty and myself endured at Pad A, was located.

A seemingly benign-enough mistake on the engineering drawings of these extensible planks, wherein the planks were incorrectly rendered as extending at a 90-degree angle with respect to the fixed platform framing from which they were supported, led directly, through a highly-improbable, but utterly inevitable, chain of events, to two people coming a gnat's whisker from getting killed.

The planks did not extend at a 90-degree angle, but instead slanted somewhat forward as they extended, toward the open doors of the PCR.

Look very close at the area where the planks butt against each other from opposing sides, and you can just get a kind of idea that they're not meeting each other "square" but instead, have a bit of bevel cut to their ends, allowing them to meet nice and cleanly without leaving any gaps between them in this area.

This is not a very good image for displaying this "bevel" but it's the only one I've got, and it will just have to do.

Across the way, on the fixed platforms out of view on the other side, there was a haunch that supported a strange-looking, long skinny platform that was mounted on a fairly substantial rotating bearing, allowing it to be swung around from its nominal stowed position where it was out of the way, and extended, to give a technician access, forty-five feet or so above the cold hard steel of the PCR floor down at the 135' level, to the Space Shuttle's KU-band antenna, should such access become necessary while the bird was on the pad.

The mounting haunch for that thing was quite sturdy, as it needed to be, to allow that pivoting cantilevered platform to safely do its job while carrying the load of the technician who might be needed to perform this or that task on the KU-band antenna.

And the haunch was supported by the steel framing that made up the fixed platforms themselves, as well as providing support for the roller-bearings, screw jacks, and ancillary steel necessary to extend and retract the extensible planks, and the goddamned engineering drawing, for reasons that nobody ever seemed to find out why, showed the planks, and their support steel, with a 90-degree orientation to the fixed platform framing steel, and the haunch that supported the KU-band Antenna Access Platform was fabricated and delivered per those very same incorrect engineering drawings, all nice and square, all around, with nothing but 90-degree angles everywhere it came into contact with the existing steel framing, and the goddamned thing was wrong, and we had to go over to A Pad to see how the problem had been resolved over there.....

.....and the both of us damn nearly got killed in the process.

Bottom Right:

Looking down toward the pad deck from the Hinge Column side of things, a little ways beneath the RCS Room.

Zoom in on the image, just to the left of the white shade of the lighting fixture on the PBK & Contingency Platforms, which are extending down toward the center of things from all the way out of view past the top of the image, to see three people standing in a small group, discussing who knows what, to get a sense of scale for just how high above that concrete down there you really are.

That's a pretty good drop there, just past the end of your boots.

They're working on installing the inflatable seals that are mounted on the orbiter side seal panel, across the way over there, and if you look, you can see somebody wearing an orange hard hat in a spider basket, down toward the bottom of the side seal panel, fastening the inflatable seal, which is kind of flapping in the breeze, up above him, to the side seal panel.

I had mentioned earlier, where there was a spider basket in the image, that I did not think it was ours, but now that I look at this image, I'm pretty sure it is.

We had the task of furnishing and installing these seals, and that's what's going on in this picture, so yeah, that's one of our ironworkers, which means that's also our spider basket.

This image also provides an excellent look at the layout and orientation of the sixty-foot-tall bi-fold PCR doors.

To the right of our ironworker in his spider basket, you can see the large white expanse of the inboard (toward the center of the pair of bi-fold doors with respect to the center of the Payload Changeout Room) panel of the PCR door, complete with a dark rectangle down at its bottom, where a normal-sized personnel door was located.

This door panel extends up and out of the frame in the top right corner of the image, and just before it disappears, you can see a very small platform with a soft curved bumper on the part that flips up, out of the way, into it's nominal stowed position (which is where it is in this image). This small flip-up is another, disconnected from the main part of things, piece of the PBK & Contingency Platforms, and I've only just now, looking at this very image closely, all these years (over thirty, in fact) later, finally figured out the sense of these things. Its job is to provide access, I would suppose during a "contingency," to the Payload Bay Kit, which was an apparatus that could be affixed to the outside of the Space Shuttle's Payload Bay Doors, and then used to manually open or close them, if need be. More on this in a bit.

God, but I just love figuring this shit out!

And you people think I'm just being nice, and doing all this for you.

Ok. Back to the PCR bi-fold doors.

Down at the bottom of the big door panel I just described, leaning up against it, somebody has placed a white rectangle of something, up against the surface of the big door panel.

See it down there?

Ok, good.

Now look to the immediate left of that thing, and you will see the bottom of the other half of the sixty-foot-high bi-fold door. The outboard side of the door. The side of the door away from where the two doors come together in the center of the front of the PCR.

And this part of the door extends up out of the frame of the image, too, and just before it does so, a bit of it winds up behind our little PBK contingency flip-up platform.

I really do hope you're following me with all this.

So now that we can see and understand what we're looking at with the bi-fold doors, imagine the hinge in that bi-fold door, coming more or less directly toward us as we look at it from our present vantage point.

And for that to happen, the big door panel on the right is going rotate a just little bit counterclockwise and move farther to the right, and also closer to the OMS Pod mold-line in the floor steel down there, and the left, smaller, door panel is going to rotate almost a full quarter-turn clockwise and also move closer to us, and also move closer to the side seal panel that's getting its inflatable seal installed on it, and when everything has moved as far as it can, we're going to have ourselves sixty vertical feet of closed space, sealed up nice and good behind a door that has a hinged "bend" in it, that's butt up against the side seal panel over on the left, and the other PCR door, a small bit of which you can see, in direct sunlight, down in the bottom right corner of the frame, and this meeting of the doors would occur to the right of the scaffold platform that has been laid mostly across the notch in the orbiter mold-line PCR floor framing, where the Space Shuttle's tail would go, if there was a Space Shuttle on the pad, and if the RSS was mated to it.

Lovely. Just lovely.

Now, back to the sense of things with those little "contingency" platforms that are attached to the surface of the PCR doors.

The damn things are not only tiny but they're also just sort of there, hanging off into nothingness, bolted directly to the face of the door, with no apparent means of accessing them.

This has always bothered me. Always. For years. Decades, even.

Well then, I've finally gotten to the bottom of things with it.

Go back to the previous page, and get a look at the bottom right image, the one with the spider basket in it.

Ok. Notice, please, that immediately to the left of that spider basket, there's a ladder.

This ladder is also something that has nagged at me for literal decades.

What's up with this ladder?

Until today, I never knew.

But now, at long last, I finally know!

With the doors fully open (and in all my years on the pad, this is the configuration I almost always found them in, and that little tidbit is very significant when it comes to my woeful state of ignorance on this subject), this ladder is completely useless. It's crammed up there in the space between the pair of bi-fold panels. and there's not even room enough to get on it and go anywhere.

Zoom in on the picture and you'll see what I mean.

The Safety Man is not amused, and nobody's going anywhere on that fucking ladder.

Furthermore, even if you snuck in there when the safety man wasn't around, and sort of sqinched yourself up in there somehow hanging off the side of that ladder, and headed up the thing, sorely tempting both Fate and Death as you did so, you'd quickly discover that your further progress would be completely blocked by the underside of the very first Contingency Platform you encountered, bolted to the other panel of the door, with no way up onto it, and no way to go around it.

Seems kind of stupid, doesn't it?

So..... now imagine the goddamned PCR doors closed.

Yeah. The goddamned PCR doors had to be closed in order for this ladder to come out of its little crevice, and become something useful.

With the doors closed, the ladder provides perfect access to those little flip-ups.

And every last bit of this can be seen, perhaps not particularly clearly, but it's certainly visible, in this picture, flip-ups, ladder, door panels, and all, which of course I took myself and have been in possession of since day one.

Thirty years it takes to figure this out!


I feel like an idiot.

Hell, I am an idiot.

But at least I'm willing to honestly admit to that, and to try to improve myself to diminish my idiocy as much as I can, whenever I can.

Small comfort, that.

Oh well.

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