• The ‘Behemoth’: NASA’s 6.6 million pound Crawler/transporter

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    Figure 1  The Mars Orion Spacecraft will be perched atop the mighty Space Launch System (SLS) that will travel from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39B via a massive Crawler-Transporter 2 moving at the speed of a sloth---one mile per hour. Artemis I will be the first launch towards our goal to land astronauts on Mars. (Image at NASA Kennedy Space Center [KSC] courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

    Figure 2 The crawler-transporter 2 has four pickup points (shown in yellow) that will be used to lift the mobile launcher (See Figure 3) with NASA’s SLS and the Orion spacecraft on top of the Crawler for its eight hour trip to Launch Complex 39B (Image courtesy of NASA)

    The Crawler is 131 feet long and 113 feet wide.

    Figure 3 The Mobile Launcher shown here sitting atop the Crawler-transporter 2. The vehicle’s Control Room cab can be seen on the left side just above the treads. (Image courtesy of NASA)

    Some crawler history

    There were two of these behemoth machines, called crawler-trans­porters, that have carried rockets and spacecraft to launch pads for more than 50 years at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Each of these crawlers span the size of a baseball infield diamond and are powered by locomotive and large electrical power generator en­gines.

    These crawlers were built in 1965 to move the massive Saturn V rocket, which carried the Apollo Moon spacecraft, from Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Complex 39. After the Moon landings and Skylab programs ended, the crawlers continued to take the many space shuttles to their launch pads for the next 30 years.

    After the shuttle fleet retired in 2011, the crawlers became critical elements of future launch operations at Kennedy. Crawler-Transporter 2 will be integral to the Artemis program, sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon

    Crawler Facts from NASA

    Weight: Approximately 6.6 million pounds (or the weight of about 15 Statues of Liberty or 1,000 pickup trucks).

    Height: Varies from approximately 20 feet to 26 feet, based on the position of the jacking, equalization and leveling cylinders.

    Load Capacity: Able to transport 18 million pounds (or the weight of more than 20 fully loaded 777 jet aircraft).

    Aug. 26, 1967 – The first Saturn V rocket was moved to the launch pad for the unmanned Apollo 4 mission.

    May 1, 1979 – A crawler transported space shuttle Enterprise, with external tank and two inert solid rocket boosters, to Launch Pad A for a fit check.

    Nov. 16, 2011 – Moved Space Launch System’s (SLS) mobile launcher from the park site beside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to Launch Pad 39B.

    Figure 4 A crawler could potentially lift and move the St. Louis Gateway arch weighing more than 34 million pounds! (Image at NASA KSC courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

    The newly installed generators in the crawler can each produce 1500 kW of power---that’s enough to power 17 International Space Stations (ISS)

    NASA tells us that Phase I Crawler modifications, for the Artemis program, were replacement of existing roller assemblies and bearings with redesigned, upgraded assemblies and bearings which have a greater load capacity. An expanded and uprated lubrication system was added to service the new assemblies. The jacking, equalization and leveling system cylinders and piping were all replaced with redesigned and upgraded versions implemented during Phase II modifications.

    Twenty-year-service life extension modifications were made, according to NASA, including a complete upgrade and modernization of the vehicle’s control room, an expanded strain and temperature system, a new condition monitoring system, two new Cummins 1,500-kilowatt AC generators, redesigned and uprated parking and service brakes, control system modifications, ALCO diesel engine refurbishments, a complete reconditioning of all gear cases and gears, and a new...

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  • NASA: From the Moon to Mars

    05/16/2020 at 22:55 0 comments

    Left to right are Steve T (author), Ross Brocco (a 30+ year veteran Structural engineer for Grumman), and my wife and photographer Loretta. We are standing in front of an actual Grumman Lunar Module (LM) at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in NY circa 2012. This LM 13 was last in the series and never flew; its mission (Apollo 18) was cancelled to move on to the Space Shuttle program.

    Ross Brocco is featured in my upcoming copyrighted book “Guardians of the Right Stuff”. He was at Grumman for 30+ years as a Structural Engineer on the Apollo Lunar Module program. Ross was responsible for the mechanical design of the front door hatch on the LEM and various other mechanical components.

    The Lunar Module was a true engineering marvel. Even to present day, it is the only crewed transport vehicle designed to function solely in the vacuum of space. It was expertly designed by Grumman Corp. on Long Island, NY. The LM's main purpose was to land men on the moon and return them safely to the Command Module orbiting the Moon. The LM was never actually flight tested because the Lunar environment could not be replicated. During the span of the Apollo program in the 60s and early 70s, 13 Lunar Modules were built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation (now the Northrop Grumman Corporation). Only six of those made manned lunar landings.

    Fast forward to the present day efforts by NASA in their “Moon to Mars” program known as “Artemis” named after the sister of Apollo. This program will take astronauts back to the Moon.

    On April 30, 2020 NASA chose Elon Musk’s SpaceX , Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and a third party led by Dynetics of Huntsville, Ala. for initial design development work over the next 10 months for the next Lunar Landing system.

    I met with former astronaut Lee Morin, MD, PhD. Dr. Morin explained the difficulty of bringing materials and supplies to the Moon to establish a base there which eventually will enable a Moon-to-Mars manned excursion instead of a direct Earth-to-Mars trip. The Rocket equation stands in our way!

    M = Instantaneous Mass of the rocket, V = velocity, ISP*g = exhaust velocity

    There is an excellent treatment of the Rocket Equation on Medium.com with “Rocket Science 101: The tyranny of the rocket equation

    The Apollo program only delivered a crewed payload of 6,900 kg to the surface of the Moon (It is a fact that in six Apollo Moon landings we only delivered a mass of about one fully-loaded van!). How are we to send such things as an earth-mover like a hydraulic excavator at 35,100 kg, or something like a habitat to work like US Lab Destiny at 14, 000 kg? The answer: convert resources already on the Moon for our needs of a crewed base there using Lunar Regolith, sunlight in a Vacuum with a three second delay in communications to Earth.

    The best way to do this is “telepresence” or Robotic remote control in early missions with a payload of 1,000 kg to the Lunar surface. Probably a robotic rover that can dig and remove regolith and process it in a lab that needs to be built with an In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) Material Processing Lab on the Moon.

    The ISRU Lab will ultimately be a place to assemble, manipulate, and repair apparatus. There will be a Solar Furnace to bake and fuse regolith (Regolith is not soil. Soil has organic content, and the moon's regolith has none. Volcanic soil is fertile, because of the nutrients in it). In this way Moon glass and ceramic materials can be made which will be 50x stronger than Earth glass.

    Thin Film Deposition in the Lunar vacuum can create mirrored coatings on Moon glass-----this leads to solar cell manufacturing!

    Extracting of metals like FeO and then using electrolysis in regolith melt can yield Oxygen.

    NASA's Phase 1 Gateway will include a Power and Propulsion Element, Habitation and Logistics Outpost and logistic supply that is a Lunar outpost orbiting...

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  • The Gerber Scale helped get us to the Moon

    05/09/2020 at 23:54 0 comments

    Steve Taranovich examining an Apollo Service Module Engine at NASA White Sands. The Gerber Scale sped up designs like this to meet President Kennedy’s goal to get a man on the moon by the end of the 60’s decade (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

    Back in the 60s, the Gerber Scale was quite a unique engineering instrument that enabled a new idea in the field of computation before computers came onto the scene. This was a manual and mechanical device that helped engineers immensely in that era.

    The Gerber scale would perform computations directly on graphs and curves. The device was critical for reading, plotting, and interpolating on a graph in the days when plotter/paper graph printouts were popularly used.

    During the birth of the space program at NASA, there were no computers of calculators available for engineers to simplify their calculations and charts/graphs. NASA engineers used the Gerber scale in the 60s for such things as pressure ratio from navigation, center of gravity, spacing rivets, laying out an airfoil section, and the power ratio of two curves, just to name a few.

    Multiplication and division of a length by a number can be done as well as finding the peak of a curve. See the original Gerber Scale Application and Instruction Manual by Joseph Gerber, Chairman, Gerber Scientific for many more uses.

    Ray Melton, an engineer who worked at NASA White Sands in the early days of the space program, used the Gerber Scale in his Rocket Engine-related work. Figure 1.

    Figure 1 Ray Melton used this Gerber Scale for his work in the Rocket engine area at NASA White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) back in the early 60s. (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

    The Gerber variable scale has a slider and a logarithmic scale is imprinted on its baseplate. The uniqueness of this amazing tool is a ‘CPU-like’ device in the form of a triangular shaped spring which has 100 calibrated coils, of which every fifth is blue-green in color, every tenth is red, and all others are white. Figure 2. 

    Figure 2 The Gerber variable scale resembles a slide rule, but the similarity is only superficial, since the basic principle behind the two is pretty much completely different. Although this variable scale does have computational capability, it functions more like a divider, so it would be more appropriate to be placed in the category of a measuring device. (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

    There is an indexed round coil spring that enables easier reading of the coils of the triangular spring. One end, of the two springs, is attached to the slider while the other end is attached to the left block of the baseplate. These will simultaneously extend when the slider moves from left to right and also will contract when moving back to the left as can be seen below in Figure 3.

    There was a hex wrench included with the Gerber scale to adjust the friction between the slider and the sliding rail which prevents being pulled back from the desired stop position by the force of the spring. These linear springs follow Hooke’s Law; the coils will be equally spaced with respect to a slider stop position as shown in Figure 3.

    Figure 3 These linear springs follow Hooke’s Law; the coils will be equally spaced with respect to a slider stop position (Image courtesy of Loretta Taranovich)

    The Gerber Scale was used by engineers for linear interpolation/extrapolation of plotted data points without the need for any time-consuming computations. The base plate has a logarithmic scale which enables this device to be used on graphs or plots that have logarithmic coordinates. The Gerber Scale can also be used for a precision spacing divider for up to one hundred points!

    Back in the 60s, many time curves were plotted, but needed to be re-plotted as a family of curves or a curve family multiplied by constants. Figure 4.

    Figure 4 Curve “a” is drawn and the Gerber Scale plots a family of curves with values of 0.2a,...

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