B Pad Construction Photos - Space Shuttle - Page 8



Forum commentary here:


Ok, this one is a hodgepodge.

Top left is a shot by Jack Petty of me standing on top of the Lightning Mast. Go here http://www.16streets.com/MacLaren/Misc/TechnoRedneck.htm to see enlargements of the shot that make me visible (sort of) along with a crazed (but one-hundred percent true down to the smallest detail) story of a near-fatal misadventure at Pad A. (Added 2017 07 12: Click here for a "medium" enlargement that includes the top of the FSS to sort of give some proper scale to things, and yeah, that's me in a white hard hat up there on top of the lightning mast, hands in the front pockets of my dark-blue windbreaker, wearing blue jeans.)

Top right is a shot of John Foster (I hope I got that name right) and James Dixon, who were ironworkers at Ivey Steel. James is still with Ivey as far as I know. Just another day on the job.

Bottom left is unknown, grinding the iron, high above nothing at all, on the 135 level of the RSS, at the orbiter mold line cutout area. The funny-looking cutout corresponds to the orbiter's right OMS Pod, and behind our ironworker is the right orbiter side-seal panel extending vertically up and out of the photo. There was a screw-up with the design of that side-seal panel in that it was originally fabricated and installed as a hinged affair, complete with actuator and all the rest, to allow it to fold out of the way when the RSS was mated or demated with the vehicle. But since this whole area is forward of the RSS hinge column, as the RSS retreats from or approaches the vehicle, this panel is moving away and back, or in and forward, such that it can never interfere with the Shuttle. So they wound up welding it all up solid and it was a nice waste of time and money to do so.

Bottom right is Durwood G. (Gene) Lockamy, fooling around for the camera on the catwalk area that runs around behind the RSS at the 135 level. Gene was very low key, one of the nicest people you'd ever meet, and a hell of an ironworker, too. Behind him are girts supporting the insulated metal panels that make up the walls of the Payload Changeout Room. My first ever foray on to high steel, occurred several years prior to this shot being taken, on these same girts, but without any insulated metal paneling attached to them, somewhere around the 190 or maybe 195 foot level. It was scary as hell, but I swallowed hard and stepped out there and did my job. After a while, you more or less get used to it, and it's no big thing. But at first, it's a real attention-getter, and you give it every drop of attention you've got.


Additional commentary below the image.

Top Left:

Top of the lightning mast. One of the more spectacular views in all of Florida, truth be told. Unobstructed sphere of vision from the top of the FSS, a hundred feet below you, all the way to directly overhead, and all, and I do mean all, points in between. And since B pad is the northernmost facility of any real substance on the Cape, looking north from there, across the wilderness of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge was pretty cool, 'cause there's nothing there except this wilderness of land and water, with patterns visible in the form of ancient dune lines from distant interglacial days when the ocean was higher, but receding as the glaciers swelled once again in their latest cycle of tens and hundreds of thousands of years, one dune line stacked hard against the next, gently curving, delineated by water or differing vegetation, larger bodies of water here and there, the northernmost reaches of the Indian River, with Titusville barely visible in the distant mists and hazes, the Atlantic Ocean with its distinct shoreline curving away to infinity, and ..... well, you get the idea. And in other directions, you're looking down from an eagle's perspective, on a goddamned moonport of all wild-ass things, and all of the facilities visible on KSC and farther away on the Cape are all so very strange and wonderful, like some kind of science-fiction landscape or something, and they're all isolated as hell, separated from each other by more endless miles of hard-core wilderness, and connected with these thin threads of roadway that run straight as arrows or bend and turn, here and there, and the light breeze is blowing in off the ocean into your face, and if you're not careful, it's enough to cause you to just take wing and fly away, which you'd better not try, or otherwise somebody's gonna have to clean a particularly nasty mess off the top of the of the FSS, so best you keep a level head about things, but damn, what a fucking view!

The mast itself is made out of fiberglass, and it's a little bit translucent, and the light coming through dimly has an orangish cast, and it has a fiberglass ladder running up its very ample six-foot diameter, and you're going up this ladder, eighty vertical feet inside of the thing, and the fiberglass rungs on the ladder (which are smoother than we might like, and kind of thin-skin hollow and round, and just a bit large, and they do not feel quite right in your hands) are creaking and crackling as you grab first one and then the next, pulling with your hands and pushing with your feet, and you're putting all of your weight on this shit, and it would be nice if it would shut the fuck up and quit making noises that are causing you to wonder if the goddamned thing is going to break but it's too late by now, and you're already sixty feet up on a fucking ladder and if you look down you can see all fucking sixty feet of free drop down there below you, and there's no safety hooks or lines, or anything, and even if you fell onto one of the interior baffle plates, you're still gonna be going twenty feet or more before you hit it, and just as soon as you hit it, you're probably going to give a couple of good involuntary twitches, sending you into the three-foot hole that the ladder passes through, and.... maybe we don't want to be thinking about any of that too much anymore, and we're getting close to the last baffle, which is maybe three feet beneath the metal cap on the damn thing, and what the hell was I thinking, coming up inside this thing in the first place, anyway?

That last baffle plate is an awkward sonofabitch, and you're all scrunched over on it, legs hanging through the hole that the ladder disappears down into the deep gloom below through, and over your cramped shoulders and bowed head, you're hard up against a flat metal plate (probably galvanized steel, but I can't be positive about that), and in that flat metal plate there's a little flat hatchplate that slides (poorly, grudgingly) along some small angle-iron support brackets, and you grab the damn handle, and you have to give it a pretty good heave, and you hope it doesn't break completely free all at once and maybe throw you into the hole the ladder comes through, and it finally opens up, and good god that air tastes nice and the daylight sure makes things better too, and you immediately work your head and upper body into that hole up there, and then you just as immediately slow way the fuck down, 'cause you're a mile up in the sky, and there's not much around to grab hold of, and it's just you and the top of this thing, and you're on your own now, baby.

But it's six fucking feet across up there, and any self-respecting ironworker would be laughing out loud at the fact that you're a little nervous, dealing with such a fucking parking lot, but you're not an ironworker, and you're never going to able to dance around on high steel the way those guys do, although you can get around, and do get around, but it's definitely not in the same relaxed manner as those guys do it, that's for good and damned sure.

Here, have some more respect, guys, I'm quite sure that I'll never ever be able to properly convey the full amount of respect that I have for who you are, men and women, and what you do, every day. But I'll occasionally keep trying anyway, because that's just the kind of person I am, ok?

So you're standing there, waist deep in the top of the lightning mast, and behind you it's over the side and you're gone, and in front of you there's a fixture.

The fixture has a sheave-block on top of it, and the sheave-block is carrying a wire rope that extends for over a thousand feet, to the north and south, all the way down to the ground, four hundred feet below. That wire rope is what will take the energy from lightning strikes and carry them safely away from the Space Shuttle when it's sitting on the pad. We do not want to blow our goddamned Space Shuttle clear to hell when lightning strikes, and they take this shit pretty seriously out there.

The wire is fixed in place, but the lightning mast rotates merrily around with the hammerhead crane, which it is sitting right on top of.

Which means that our sheave block must be able to rotate on its fixture, to keep it aligned with the wire rope at all times, no matter what the orientation of the hammerhead crane.

Ok, fine.

And so you get this rig up there, and it's right in front of you, and it takes up some space on top of the mast, and so you clamber up and out of the hole, very carefully, and you step very carefully around this fixture, and when you're standing properly on top of things, the fixture comes up to just a little bit above knee-high, and you could step across the wire rope to an equally-sized area on the far side of the fixture if you'd like, and if you're just dawdling around up there, you can sort of lean your legs, and just a wee little bit of your weight, against it, and it steadies you some, and golly isn't that one fucking hell of a view?

Yes. Yes it is.

Off to one side, on the fixture, and pretty close to the sheave-block which it rotates with, there's a metal spear, and of course there's a little story that goes with that metal spear.

They wound up spec'ing the thing out twice, apparently, and as part of our contract, we'd furnished one, but it never got used, since there already was one, up on top of the mast. To the best of my knowledge, they never did realize their mistake and demand we give it, or some ridiculous credit against our contract, back to them.

It stood up against the wall in our field trailer, in a corner, far out of harm's way, for a very long time indeed, and it was about five feet long, and an inch, or maybe just a bit more, in diameter, and it was stainless but had a peculiar darkish cast to its shiny shiny surface, and it had the most god-awful lethal, long, sharp, finely-machined, and exquisitely-tapered point on it that you've ever seen. Seriously dangerous fucking item. You could barely even touch that point, and it would go right on into you. Gah. And it was made of inconel. And it weighed about maybe twenty or thirty pounds, and for some stupid reason I wanted that goddamned thing, but my boss wouldn't let me have it, and I have no idea where it wound up. Probably in my boss's house, right? Whatever.

Anyway, that thing was right there when you were standing on top of the lightning mast, but you never ever grabbed on to it to steady yourself, 'cause it was twangy and bad things would happen to you if you put any weight against it at all.

Nobody at Boeing ever chose to put the hammerhead crane into motion while any of us were up there goofing off on top of the lightning mast, which was good, because if they had, it would have been dance time as the part of the top of the mast you were standing on suddenly decided to rotate around, underneath the wire rope, forcing you to step smartly now, to get over it while it was moving, and not get swept off the top of the mast, which would have been deeply unpleasant, had it happened.

Also, the mast swayed in the light breeze when you were up there on top of it, and that sensation was one the most indescribably delicious and unsettling things, at one and the same time, that you might ever want to experience.


Stupid kids, taking stupid risks.

Except that we weren't kids. We were grown-ass men, working as skilled professionals, on a hugely serious project involving irreplaceable national assets, and yet there we were, fucking around on top of the lightning mast, for the sheer pointless joy of it.

Go figure.

There was enough room up there for more than one person, and the most we ever had up on it at once was three people, and I'm pretty sure a fourth guy could have fit, but we never tried that one.

Top Right:

Like it says above, John Foster (left), and James Dixon (right). Take a look at the expression on James' face. Such a marvelous mixture of amusement, suspicion, contempt, wonderment, and disdain, all at the same time. I got along really well with almost all of the ironworkers (as with anywhere else, there's always one or two knot-heads that you're never going to get along with), James and John included, but there was always this distance, this tinge of suspicion, that adhered to things no matter what else might have been going on. I was management after all, and there's always going to be some mutual distrust, just based on that alone, and I was also some strange surf-bum guy from the local beach unlike everybody else out there working, with absolutely no proper background in ironworking, and as such was regarded with an everpresent slight whiff of ..... I don't even know exactly what to call it, but it was always there, and it's on James' face in this shot, and John just thought it was funny, some weird guy coming up to them with a goddamned camera of all weird-ass things, wanting to take their picture, of all weirder-ass things, and none of them had the slightest sense of history, or who they might be, or what they might be doing, twenty or thirty years on down the road somewhere, although that kind of stuff was screamingly, blindingly, obvious to me, even if not another soul out there seemed to share my viewpoint on things.

And, for myself, my attitude was "Fuck this shit, and fuck these people, I'm gonna grab every last motherfucking shot, every single time I can, and I just don't give a rat's ass about what any of them think," and that's exactly what I did. It put me in a somewhat lonesome position, cut away from the main heard as a noticeable outlier, but I was happy to roll right along, on my own, trusting my own instincts above those of everyone else. And you know what? I was right, goddamnit. Go have yourself a good look around the internet, or anywhere else you might choose, right this minute and see if you can find anything besides these pictures of mine, that details this place, at this time, with these people, doing these things. Best of fucking luck with it. Very best fucking luck indeed. I may not be much, but I'm all you're ever going to get, and I know it. So fuck you, too.

Bottom Left:

RSS 135 level, orbiter mold line in the right OMS Pod area. Wish I knew who it was, but I do not. Grinding on the iron. Zoom in really close and it almost looks as if he's sitting directly on the actuator (and maybe just a bit of its hidden support bracket) for the orbiter side-seal panel that wound up getting welded in place. I would presume that he's tied off, but it's not apparent, and these guys would just skip the hassle of dragging around a fucking rope and clip and messing with it to secure themselves, if they were just going to be some where, doing some thing, for just a minute or two, so who knows?. The pad deck is 85 feet beneath him, straight drop, nothing between his ass and cold concrete except for that actuator. Ho hum.

Down on the pad deck, you can see a couple of empty flatbed semi-trailers and the steel they delivered to the job site laying around on the ground in the shake-out yard. Every last piece of that steel needs to be checked against a bill of material, to verify it not only actually got delivered, but is also fabricated correctly. And after that, it's marked off on the detail drawings complete with delivery date, and then marked again on the erection drawings, after its been hung. This was what I spent an awful lot of my time, doing. Clipboard, bill of materials, detail drawings, erection drawings, back and forth, marking, checking, verifying, and on and on and on. Lotta goddamned steel in a launch pad, and every last bit of it must be accounted for and must be accounted for correctly.

Also, that's a pretty good look at a float, tied to the steel, right there. Step off the platform, or framing steel, or whatever, put your weight down on to the float, feel it drift and wiggle back and forth as you bear down on it, trust it with your life, and just go right on ahead and make yourself comfortable on it. Nothing to it.

Bottom Right:

Gene Lockamy. Gene was a Good Man. 'Nuff said.

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