Experience delivers: Moving SLS with the crawler-transporter
Meet Bob Myers, an operations engineer on the Test and Operations Support Contract and one of NASA’s crawler drivers that transport rockets to and from the Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Complex 39B.
Myers had a few jobs ahead of his NASA crawler days, starting off at Westinghouse, which had plans to build a floating nuclear power plant, however, investors ultimately backed out.
During that time, the Space Shuttle Program started to gear up.
Myers applied for a position and started in the cranes, doors, and platforms section where he stayed for about four years until an opportunity opened to work with the crawlers in the early 1980s. He has been there ever since.
As of today, the requirements are system engineer responsibility and the completion of a course of study for certification to work with and on the crawler, which is administered by NASA.
After training for four to five months, Myers was on his own.
When asked about the uniqueness of moving the shuttle as opposed to the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, Myers said the crawler doesn’t know that much difference.
“That’s the one great thing we always talk about,” Myers said. “It was built with a slide rule, not a computer and this pretty much gave the Crawler the ability to carry loads greater than was originally designed, which was a great thing for us because we are still here.”
The most intense and exciting part of his job, Myers said, is the tolerance docking of the crawler on both ends of the operation, which is plus or minus an inch “which is pretty small when you are talking about docking a 150-foot square launch platform.”
One of the recent improvements to the crawlerway itself — the road that the crawler-transporter uses to move rockets between the VAB and the launch pad 39B — was the use of a newly leased GPS laser guided crawlerway grader.
“[That] absolutely made a big difference,” Myers said. “With the crawlerway being a lot more level, there was a lot less vibration exerted on to the chassis and the vehicle itself and the JEL [jacking, equalization and leveling] system did not have to work nearly as hard.”
Myers also has accumulated the most time driving the crawler, CT-2, up the 5-degree gradient slope to the platform of Launch Complex 39B with the shuttle and SLS rocket.
Redundancies are important for the crawler in terms of personnel Myers went on to explain “spreading responsibility in case of sickness or someone isn’t available for some reason.”
Responsibilities on the crawler may vary and Myers is always on the crawler when it’s moving. The crawler does not need a lot of extra preparation to move the Space Launch System. CT-2 is ready to facilitate a move once the pad’s systems are all disconnected and the SLS is ready to go.
When the crawler is not in operation, engineers and support technicians keep the vehicle operational by checking assigned subsystems for functions necessary to keep CT-2 ready to move. These system checks and repairs take up much of the time and a “short biweekly operation” start-up of the crawler is routinely performed to make sure it works as expected.
On Sept. 26, NASA’s Launch Control made the decision to roll the Artemis I SLS rocket back to the VAB ahead of Hurricane Ian for safe keeping. Myers was the driver to move the rocket stack into the VAB. He also served as the CT-2 test conductor for part of 2 group shift, test conductors oversee management of the move activities, senior crawler engineers share this responsibility and rotate this job.
NASA now looks to return the SLS rocket to the launch pad as early as Nov. 4 for a Nov. 14 launch.
Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.