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A tour of Space Launch Complex 40 - SpacePod 2011.05.23

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Bobby Block: Well, as you can see here, the rocket is on it's side. It's on a few dollies. And the dollies have ball bearings on it. This entire rocket weighs, fully loaded, thirty tons. With the dollies and the rails on the ground, four people can move it. I mean, look, if you look around the room you won't see much. It's an incredibly simple operation. You've got two overhead 40 ton cranes, well 40 together or two 20s. The rocket weighs 30 tons when it's all done. On the ground, it can be moved by four people easily pushing it, no need to motorize it. When it comes to lifting it up, to putting it on the dollies, the rail car that would actually move it to the mobile launch pad itself, that's when we would use the cranes. But, the advantage as well of a horizontal integration is that, as you can all see, it's all within easy reach. You see a ladder down at the end of the way. Everyone works on ladders. You also notice the two wheels. There's a wheel on the other side, there's a ring around the rocket, and when the wheels turn, it's like a chicken rotisserie. The rocket will turn. So if there's a part that you need to reach at the top of the rocket and it's out of reach, the wheels will turn, the rocket will move, and everything becomes accessible. Behind me, what you can just see the bells of ... and the reason is that there are export control regulations known as ITAR, they're notoriously difficult, so we can't show you much of the plumbing. But these are engines, this is a clean-sheet design engine, this is our engine .... "Clean sheet" means that it doesn't, like a lot of the rockets that you have now, would propose or use bits of engine families that existed before them. So they have a lot of heritage technology and therefore heritage infrastructure cost. We designed the engine like all parts of the Falcon 9 and the Dragon completely with the notion that we're going to look at cost as a part of the reliability and safety from the outset. So clean sheet meant that there was nothing, that literally we started with a clean sheet of paper to design the engines. And what you have is you've got nine engines, they're 3x3, which is interesting because if you've seen the Falcon launches, you see that the contrail is really interesting, it's square because of that configuration. There are a lot of other contrails with the flames coming off that are cylindrical, while this is a square look. Anyway, each engine has got about 100,000 pounds of thrust. The new, there's a new engine in development, which is the Merlin 1D, which will have about 125,000-140,000 pounds of thrust. The rocket is put together, the Dragon is integrated. The rocket is ready to go. It weighs about 30 tons. That rocket then is ... We've got two cranes above, each carries twenty tons. Jason: Ok. Bobby: The rocket then is lifted off of the dollies that they're now on. The transporter is taken out to the pad, which is led down, it's horizontal, it's driven in. The rocket is then lowered onto the transporter. It's bolted on, driven out, and put vertical. The entire process from lowering it down to getting it standing up is less than an hour, and we're working to improve those times. What you're looking at is a 110,000 gallon LOX sphere. It's a tank that holds liquid oxygen. It was actually the Apollo 1 liquid oxygen tank. And part of the deal in our attempt to be simple and affordable, we bought this from NASA for $1 over scrap. It's hard to come by tanks that big. Jason: You got it for a dollar over scrap value? Bobby: A dollar over scrap value. Jason: Well, today we've taken you to space launch complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force base. Today we've been given a behind the scenes tour. It has been one of the most amazing, eye-opening experiences of this small little reporter's life. We want to thank SpaceX. We want to thank Bobby Block for taking us on this tour and showing us how everything works. He walked us through all the processes of horizontal integration and why it's important. But we also want to take the time to make sure you follow SpaceX on Twitter at their account: @SpaceXer That's spelled with the 'at' symbol + SpaceX + er. So check them out, follow them, follow all the cool information and things they have going on. Go SpaceX!

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 51 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 584
Posted by: spacevidcast on May 30, 2011

CAPE CANAVERAL -- The manner in which Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) handles its operations is all about reducing cost while maintaining efficiency. A large part of this is displayed in the use of horizontal as opposed to vertical integration. This however is just one of many technical innovations that the company employs at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC 40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Falcon 9 rocket rests on two dollies that have wheels that allow for the Falcon 9 rocket to be rotated around much in the same manner as a rotisserie chicken. Moreover, the entire rocket can be moved without electrical power -- with as little as four people required to move it.
If something where to fall (and in many cases has fallen) from the upper decks of Launch Complex 39A (the space shuttle launch pad) damage can and has occurred to the vehicle being serviced on the pad. The likelihood of that happening at SLC 40 -- is highly unlikely. If a tool was to fall -- it would fall at maximum approximately 15 feet -- as opposed to potentially hundreds of feet at LC39A or other vertical integration-based structures in the surrounding area.
The Liquid Oxygen (LOX) tank is another example of the company's ability to cut cost. The tank was purchased for one dollar over the cost of scrap value. But the efficiency doesn't stop there. It turned out that the flame trench needed to reduce the risk of damage to the rocket due to acoustic vibration was too short. One estimate from a traditional source put the cost to refurbish the site in the millions of dollars. SpaceX consulted a young engineer who created a more efficient method -- for $65,000.
The more one spends out at SLC 40, the more one can tell that the firm is working to reinvent the manner in which rockets are sent into orbit. SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, pushes his workers to do it better, faster and at less cost than traditional methods.
"We've been tasked by Elon to get the Falcon 9 out of the hangar and ready to launch within an hour," said SpaceX's Vice-President of Communications Bobby Block. "We're not there yet -- but we're working on it."
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