Happy 50th Birthday to the NASA Crawlers

Two of the venerable giants of the Space Programme have just celebrated their fiftieth birthdays and X-1R was proudly there to celebrate with them.

With one eye on the past but one eye very definitely on the future, NASA is commemorating the first 50 years of service for two of its gigantic rocket-transporting crawlers. Originally designed in 1965, the crawlers first went into use when they were used to transport the Saturn V moon rockets from the vehicle assembly building to the launch pad.

Built by the Marion Shovel Company of Ohio, the two crawlers – named CT-1 and CT-2 – measured 40 metres by 35 metres and were dubbed Hanz and Franz by NASA staff. The pair were originally capable of transporting 12 million-pound payloads across the 4.2 miles from the assembly building to the launch pad at a rather sedate one mile per hour. Even though it is a short slow distance, the two crawlers have now managed to log a total of 1960 miles and 2207 miles respectively since they first saw active service transporting the first Saturn in May of 1966.

For the past 50 years, the transporters have been used for moving everything that has left the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Centre – including all of the Apollo rockets, Sky Lab and of course the Space Shuttle – for the past 30 years.

NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Programme has been beefing up Franz to support the agency’s Space Launch Systems heavy lift rocket, which is targeted to launch in 2018, whilst Hanz has been strengthened to support commercial spacecrafts as and when needed.

To celebrate the event, the Kennedy Space Centre invited members of the media and public to tour the crawler known as Franz as it arrived at the launch pad last week.

“This is a historic day witnessing the move of the crawler to Pad 39B,” Lisa DeVries, crawler-transporter lead safety engineer for Cummings Aerospace, said. “Thinking back on all that the crawler has done in the last 50 years, from the Apollo programme to the space shuttle programme, is really incredible.”

In a world that has changed so much in the past 50 years and where technology has moved on so fast, it is an incredible testimony to the original design work and the maintenance programme of Hanz and Franz that they are still in service. For any regular readers of this Blog, you will of course know that for the past 20 years the crawlers have benefitted from the lubrication provided by the X-1R Corporation and its range of scientifically-proven and patented formulations.

A spokesperson for the X-1R Corporation said, “We were originally asked to help the Kennedy Space Centre in 1995 to produce an advanced environmentally-friendly lubricant suitable for use in the Space Shuttle Crawler. We successfully developed a lubricant that was proven by NASA to provide superior protection, better than any other in the market. After all of these years we are still a supplier to NASA and are proud to be a Certified Space Technology. The same technology is still in use with NASA and there is now a range of products for use in cars where our products have proven to help deliver better fuel economy and engine protection”.

“The crawlers are ready to support NASA’s SLS programme and commercial missions for the next half century,” John Giles, crawler project deputy manager, said in a statement on Monday.

“I am proud to be a part of the team that is working on the upgrades to CT-2 in support of the SLS programme and preparing the crawler for the next 50 years of space exploration,” DeVries said.

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