CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — NASA has begun renovations to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. One of the most notable changes was the recent removal of the structure’s large crane, capable of hoisting some 125 tons into the air. The crane harkens back to 1977, when NASA was trying to get the space shuttle program off the ground.
Since the space shuttle era drew to a close in 2011, the crane has rested unused from its high position inside the VAB. Starting last Tuesday that changed. Beyel Crane & Rigging, a local, family-owned company, began the process of removing the massive piece of equipment.
Back during the shuttle program, right across the main transfer isle, there would be a fully assembled space shuttle. This was deemed a real safety concern, as an explosion of one of these solid motors could do considerable damage. Therefore, a new solid rocket storage building was built to the north and away from the VAB.
With the renovations to the Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs), the space shuttles have been stored in the VAB’s Bay Four before being shipped off to their new homes. No high work could be done in this bay, as this overhead bridge crane blocked the main door opening at the first door level. To make the bay more operator friendly for future use, this overhead crane had to be taken down.
“My company wanted to buy the crane and have it installed at one of our company yards, but I was informed the unit would be sold for scrap,” said Steve Beyel, co-owner of Beyel Crane & Rigging.
After a slow start at the beginning of the project, the first 41000 lb 4’ x 8’ x 90’ +/- I-beam rail was removed after five days. This was the second main lift of the project; the first involved lowering the main 91000 lb drum and cable trolley assembly. The main beam with a walkway running its length will be lowered in a couple of days. Rails, stairs, and support diagonal I-beams had to be unbolted from the main VAB girders—at times the attaching bolts could not be removed as planned, due to their age, and an I-beam was pinched in place, making it harder to remove.
“This was the first job for the company’s new Terex AC 400-ton crane, and it performed just as expected,” Beyel said.
After all the main beams are down on the ground, they will cut into 40-foot sections to make their transportation easier to the scrap and recycle yard.