NASA reached a key milestone in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A year of platform installations came to conclusion in January as the final work platform, A north, was lifted, installed and secured recently on its rail beam on the north wall of High Bay 3 inside the iconic facility.
The installation of the final topmost level completes the 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platforms halves altogether, that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket.
“Just a year ago, we were meeting the challenges of getting the first half of the first platform installed,” said Mike Bolger, Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program manager, “It’s a great testament to the creativity, persistence and hard work of the team, and it’s a terrific indicator that GSDO is on track to process the SLS and Orion flight hardware for the first test mission.”
High up in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an overhead crane lowers the final work platform, A north, into place for installation in High Bay 3 on Jan. 12. The platform is being installed and secured on its rail beam high up on the north wall of the high bay. The installation of the final topmost level completes the 10 levels of work platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, that will surround NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft and allow access during processing for missions, including the first uncrewed flight test of Orion atop the SLS rocket.
The A platforms will provide access to the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion lifting sling removal and installation of the closeout panels. LAS Antenna Testing also is performed on this level.
The platforms were mated with two, 60,000-pound rail beam assemblies that allow the platforms to move towards and away from the vehicle, as well as tie the entire system to the VAB structure. Each platform will ride on four Hillman roller systems on each side — much like how a kitchen drawer glides in and out. The process to lift and install each of the platforms takes about four hours. Each platform weighs more than 300,000 pounds, and measures about 38 feet long and close to 62 feet wide.
“I am very proud of the amount of work that the team accomplished. I am also humbled to have been able to lead this group of amazing people who have been able to complete this very complex and challenging project,” said Jose Perez Morales, GSDO VAB Element senior project manager. “I am very pleased with all the work performed by the NASA and contractor team.”
Engineers began installation of the first halves, the K-level platforms, about a year ago, followed by the J, H and G platforms. In July 2016, platform installation reached the halfway point, with the fifth of ten levels of platforms, the F-level, completed.
The American flag can be seen hanging from the final work platform, A north, as the platform is lifted up by crane from the transfer aisle in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The remaining platforms installed are E, D, C, B and A. Each of the platform levels is strategically located to allow technicians and engineer’s access to different systems on the rocket, Orion spacecraft and the Launch Abort System during processing and stacking operations on the mobile launcher.
“This is a huge day for us,” said Darrell Foster, GSDO Project Management Division chief. “We cherish these milestones. We’re all working toward launch day success.”
GSDO, with support from the center’s Engineering Directorate, is overseeing upgrades to the VAB, including the installation of the work platforms.
NASA awarded a contract to modify High Bay 3 to the Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Greeley, Colorado, in March 2014. Hensel Phelps, along with its subcontractors, Institutional Services Contract, Engineering Services Contract, and Test and Operation Support Contractor, supported crane operations, lifting, installation and initial inspection of each of the platforms.
View a time lapse of the work platform installation in the Vehicle Assembly Building.