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NASA Space Transportation Science

NASA's Giant Crawler-Transporter Is Getting an Upgrade 135

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Transportation Nation: "Retired space shuttles are being readied for museums, but there's one piece of equipment at the Kennedy Space Center that dates back to before the moon landing and it's not going anywhere. NASA's giant crawler transporter is the only machine with enough muscle to move Apollo rockets and space shuttles out to the launch pad, and after nearly 50 years on the job the agency's decided there's still no better way to transport heavy loads. It's about as wide as a six lane highway, higher than a two story building, with huge caterpillar treads at each of its four corners. ... Crawler two is being upgraded from its current lifting capacity of 12 million pounds — the combined weight of the shuttle and mobile launcher — to 18 million pounds, for NASA’s new heavy lift rocket."
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NASA's Giant Crawler-Transporter Is Getting an Upgrade

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  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @11:12AM (#41260371) Homepage

    ... but why don't they build the rocket on the take-off location and remove the building instead? It seems like a smaller effort, no?

    Go look at pictures of the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building - no, you find the links). The largest indoor space in the world. So you'd like to immolate it every time you launched a rocket? Sounds even more expensive than the crawler transporter.

    Just as a point of argument, there ARE other ways to do this sort of thing. The Russians like to put things together on the ground and then lift the entire mess up. I'm sure there were spirited discussions on the pros and cons of doing this in the 60's but this way certainly has been quite flexible.

    Sigh. This is part of my childhood - grew up around the thing. Nice to see that it's still there though.

  • by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:57PM (#41267621)
    Has to do with the way the Soviet and the US/German design teams came at an issue. The Soviets (Korolev especially) wanted to be able to access and inspect everything up to the very last, thus the horizontal assembly. They were on an extremely tight budget and couldn't afford launch failures. The Americans assumed that the contractors and assembly teams would check everything, so just stacking the components vertically the way they had done it since the V-2 seemed logical. They had a much more expansive budget and a failure rate of 20 percent was seen as acceptable (at least by the contractors) until people started climbing aboard.

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.