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NASA's Crawler Transporter Gets Upgrade


At the Kennedy Space Center retired Space Shuttles are being readied for museums. But there's one piece of equipment at Kennedy that's even older and it's not going away. Nasa's massive crawler transporter is getting an upgrade for carrying the next generation of deep space rockets and spacecraft.

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It's 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 NASA's decided there's still no better way to transport heavy loads than the crawler.

The crawler transporter is about as wide as a six lane highway and higher than a two story building, with huge caterpillar treads at each of its four corners.

Carrying the mobile launch platform- a giant grey slab of metal- and a rocket or space shuttle on top, the crawler en route for the launch pad was like a small skyscraper rolling slowly down a highway

 

But regular roads can’t handle the five and a half million pound weight of the crawler.

“If you drive on some of the roads out here where we’ve traversed it’s like riding a roller coaster, because we’ve done some damage to the roads with our weight, and especially in the heat of the summer," says lead system engineer and crawler project manager Russell Stoewe.

"We can tear up some asphalt," he says. 

Stoewe’s overseeing an overhaul to ready the crawler for an even bigger load.

There are two crawler transporters at Kennedy: crawler number two is being upgraded to carry NASA’s new heavy lift rocket- which will be bigger than the Saturn V rockets used in the Apollo program.

Apollo 11 on the crawler (Image courtesy of NASA)

 

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