NASA LOAD WEIGHING SYSTEM
Full scale mock-up testing of the fixture and load weighing system was performed at Beyel Bros. yard prior to arrival at the job site.
The space shuttle arrived and had to be jacked to the proper height before rotation procedures could begin.
Support stands were used at every step of the process for added safety.
During the rotation, one pair of jacks were lowered and the other pair were raised. Support stands were added and removed as required.
At final rotation, the fixture was welded solid and the Model 48A hydraulic gantry system was removed.
FROM THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION
TO PERMANENT ROTATION
It has been well publicized that NASA has retired its space shuttle fleet. The East coast of the United States is also going to have its own piece of this history, with the space shuttle Atlantis making its final home in a purpose built museum at the Kennedy Space Center, and it will be the star attraction. After serving as one of the launch vehicles to the International Space Station for thirty years, Atlantis is now finally home to stay.
In the fall of 2012, Beyel Bros. of Cocoa, FL received the distinguished privilege to be awarded to the project to perform the final transportation to the museum and the final placement of the shuttle for exhibit. According to Tony Hillman, Chief Operating Officer of Beyel Bros., “careful planning of every detail was essential to the successful performance of the scope of work NASA required”. NASA engineers and consultants examined every possible detail of how we were going to perform each task.” The tasks Hillman is referring to are no small feat to say the least. In order to present Atlantis to the world as most people have seen the shuttle in pictures, the exhibit plans called for the shuttle to be lifted and rotated to an exact 42.21 degree angle, as if it were undocking from the International Space Station.
Beyel Bros, BRPH, Ivey Construction Inc Delaware North and NASA agreed upon a lift plan for a custom designed and fabricated cradle fixture to be attached to the underside of the shuttle for the lift and rotation operations. A Lift Systems model 48A – 800 ton capacity hydraulic gantry system from Beyel Bros.’ fleet was selected to perform the lifting and rotation operations under the cradle as well as numerous support stands incorporated under the fixture and the gantry jacks. With Atlantis being valued at over $2,000,000,000 USD, and considered a national treasure, NASA engineers required that the weight of each lifting point be monitored throughout the entire lifting and rotation process to ensure the shuttle encountered no undue stress at any time. Additionally, they required data logging of the load weights for further dissemination once the project was complete.
Hillman contacted Lift Systems in July 2012, to explore his options for the load monitoring requirement. “Initially my plan was to build a custom header plate in lieu of the stock header plate on each jack to attach to the fixture,” said Hillman. After presenting his plan to Lift Systems, an independent bolt on solution was developed that could also be used in other applications. “We always try to look at every custom design project with an eye for usefulness in other applications once a specific project is over” said Ben Forster of Lift Systems. “We felt an independent system that could be used as a standalone device after the project was through was definitely the way to go. This would allow Beyel Bros. the most future return on their investment.” Although the space shuttle had a known total weight of 80 tons, the system developed has a total maximum weighing capacity of 1000 tons on 4 load weighing pods.
The load weighing system gained approval from NASA, was ordered by Beyel Bros, and delivered to their yard in September for the required full scale mockup and testing of all components of the lifting plan. With the successful mockup performed, Beyel Bros. mobilized to the Kennedy Space Center in November 2012 to perform the lift and rotation. The high profile procedure was then flawlessly repeated exactly as practiced over the course of 2 ½ days on the 122’ long (37m) x 56’ tall (17m) x 78’ wingspan (23.5m) Atlantis according to the strict lift plan. “NASA was quite pleased with our teams approach and execution to the shuttle rotation,” said Hillman. “During the lift and rotation, we recorded 18,000 data points, which will prove useful for future research. The weights we saw during the lift were spot on according to their engineers’ calculations.”
The Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center opened to the public on June 29th, 2013.
NASA was provided over 18,000 data points for research via the data logging capability of the system. Beyel Bros. has used this system since this project as a stand-alone load weighing system for other clients.
LIFT SYSTEMS, INC.
1505 - 7th Street
East Moline, IL 61244
Main Manufacturing Facility:
1103 - 14th Ave.
East Moline, IL 61244
1101 - 12 th Ave.
Rock Island, IL 61201
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