Walking The Moon Rocket

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Apollo 09 David Scott podczas lotu Apollo 9 GPN-2000-001100.jpg This article is a Historical Essay
Written and submitted by
[[Grady Woodard]].

Grady’s Space Chronicles


The Motion Damper Arm System

The massive Crawler-Transporter used to transport the huge Saturn V moon rocket to the launch pad was a giant machine. The hydraulic leveling system for the platform was used to balance a 5,400 metric ton load with precision. The motion of the Transporter, the height of the load, variations in the level of the roadway, the wind - all combines to throw the cargo off balance going to the pad. The leveling and equalization systems on the Crawler were quick and sensitive in their actions.

Moving the 363 foot tall rocket in a level vertical plane was tricky at best. It was decided that a device for holding the rocket at the top was needed. The device, a Motion Damper Arm System, to hold the rocket with two support beams from the Transporter tower with computerized, duel hydraulic wrenches with cables to hold the rocket in the vertical position. This would help the bending and wind distortion corrections. A slight tilt of a one-half degree, could possibly allow the Vehicle to fall over on the road to the Launch Pad .

A crash project in February of 1967, was initiated at MSFC to build two Damper Systems for the two Crawlers at the Cape. The project was led by Project Engineer, Hugh King, of the PV&E Lab Design Engineering Section.

The Motion Damper Arm’s “Claw” was 13 feet wide and 4 feet high. It had two hydraulically operated hinged floating outriggers to adjust and hold the Vehicle in place. The “Claw” would be attached to the two support beams from the tower. The units were assembled and tested in the Manufacturing Engineering Lab’s, Vehicle Packaging and Shipping Building 4755. Overtime was authorized to meet the date to roll out the first Saturn SA-501 to the Pad for launch.

The Project Engineers at MSFC, have total responsibility for everything involved with a project. He or she may take control of the final process of shipping the project and installing it in position and it’s use. The Project Engineer, sometimes may feel that he or she should work around normal processes or make changes for his Project as seen necessary for the safety and certification.

For shipment, the Project Engineer, accepted the plan of the Supply Technical Branch Traffic Management Section, which was directed to always use the best shipping method to keep the cost down as much as possible. The 13 foot wide “Claw” was put onboard a flat bed truck as an escorted wide load and packaged to procedures established for shipping standards. The Project Engineer could change or submit the packaging instructions accordingly, he always must approve the job.

On arrival at Cape Kennedy, the entire Damper System was unusable due to the damage from the rain, road grim, loose tie downs, components and hydraulic lines shaking loose and damaged. A most urgent order went out to rush to completion and prepare the second Damper System for the Cape.

This time, Hugh, the Project Engineer, solicited help from me, the Manufacturing Engineering Lab’s Project Engineer and Cape Launch Coordinator. I handled the special shipments, the Saturn rockets, explosives or large or small components and developed special procedures and equipment for storage or shipping.

For the delicate Motion Damper Arm System, I could use any method or equipment such as barge, the Pregnant Guppy Aircraft, MSFC’s equipment or public transportation equipment to do the necessary job. In this case, airborne shipment was called for, using the Guppy landing directly onto the KSC Landing Strip and transported by special equipment to the VAB Building for inspection, testing and assembly to the Crawler-Transporter.

I ordered in a 14 x 50 foot pallet used in the Guppy’s onboard shipping tracks, two weeks before the shipping date. The “Claw”, which looks like a paw with three parts that forms a curved claw and holds the rocket, support beams, wrenches and associated equipment was mounted on the shipping pallet with cranes in Building 4755 and inspected to written instructions.

The Guppy arrived at the Redstone Airstrip and a review meeting was held with the crew and it’s Load Master. Plans were made and the Guppy flew to Memphis, the only near facility for calculation and fueling the Guppy, for the load to the KSC Airstrip and to the next destination for the Guppy. The Guppy is successful by keeping itself trimmed and having good weather for flying.

When the Guppy returned to Redstone, the pallet was loaded onto a special Scissor Platform Transport Trailer to the Airstrip for lifting the pallet to the Guppy. The Guppy’s Nose, including the Cockpit is unbolted and hinged aside or rotated to open the fuselage’s cargo area.

Good weather was selected both at MSFC and KSC for transportation. The hazards of the road were eliminated and the second Damper System arrived in it’s receiving building at KSC without any problems. The Damper System No. 2 inspection and functional testing indicated no problems. Launch schedules were held and the launch was successful!

The Motion Damper Arm System did a great job holding and insuring the leveling of the rocket during the movement to the Pad. I was glad to have been part of the project in “Walking The Moon Rocket,“ to the Pad, as we called it.