Space mission on BPW axles

Reading time: approx. 3 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Goldhofer

Huge wind turbine blades, bridge sections weighing tons or entire space shuttles: over the past decades, many a spectacular load has been moved on BPW axles. Quality from Wiehl is always in particularly high demand when the objects to be transported are especially large, wide or heavy. We will show you some highlights from the last 125 years here. Episode 1: space missions!

In 2001, the launch pad for the “Delta 4” rocket set off from Brunswiek in Georgia to the Cape Canaveral Space Center in Florida, some 370 kilometres away. The pads give rockets the necessary thrust and sufficient stability when launched from the ground, and keep them on course. This needs weight: the launch pad was around ten metres high, eleven metres wide and weighed 600 tonnes – as much as 120 elephants.

Too wide even for America’s roads

The “Beyel Bros. Crane & Rigging” heavy haulage company undertook the special assignment at the time and relied on a parallel-coupled heavy-duty combination from Goldhofer with two 16 BPW axles. Overall, the vehicle weighed an impressive 920 tonnes and was 40 metres long. These dimensions meant that even on the generally wide American roads, it was a challenge in some places to safely transport the pad.

»When we purchase components, the focus is on functionality and reliability in addition to fulfilling the product specification. Furthermore, we attach great importance to a comprehensive service network and a global supply of spare parts. BPW is a partner that meets these requirements to a high degree in all respects.«

Andreas Mann, Head of Global Purchasing and authorised signatory at Goldhofer

Hard work for hydraulic axle compensation

At the start in Brunswiek, Georgia, the trailer manoeuvred precisely under the launch pad and picked it up using the hydraulic axle compensation system. Since the centre of gravity was at an extremely high seven metres, the levelling system of the Goldhofer trailers had to constantly compensate for the lateral inclination of the roads. The first ten miles crossed extreme altitude differences to a harbour where the ramp was loaded onto a barge – a flat vessel for transport by water. This transported the load 200 miles further to Cocoa in Florida, where the “roll-off” was performed. The hydraulic axle balancer had to work hard again during disembarkation, coping with sometimes enormous differences in height and always keeping the launch pad level. The journey to the destination in Cape Caneveral was then a further 26 miles, made difficult by many obstacles such as trees. But everything went smoothly: the pad arrived at the NASA site on time.

Transport to the museum

Goldhofer accepted another “mission” for NASA in 2013, when the legendary US space shuttle was to be brought to the New York Space Museum. NASA commissioned Goldhofer’s customer “Bay Crane” from New York to transport the last Space Shuttle from JFK International Airport to its official retirement home: a floating museum housed in the former aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. The Space Shuttle had a long life behind it: by 2011, it had completed a total of 135 flights since its first launch in 1981. The Space Shuttle could carry 24.5 tonnes of payload and seven astronauts into low Earth orbit at an altitude of around 200 to 650 kilometres and dock with a space station using docking adapters.

»The quality of the axles plays a very important role in projects such as this, because not only does a large part of the vehicle’s weight rest on the axles, but the steering and braking functions are also included. Failure of just one of these functions would lead to an immediate stoppage of transport with considerable consequential costs for the operator, not to mention claims for compensation in the event of damages.«

Andreas Mann, Head of Global Purchasing and authorised signatory at Goldhofer

Specially developed lifting gear used

Bay Crane, one of the most important crane service providers and heavy transport specialists in the USA, has been working for some time with Goldhofer’s innovative THP/SL heavy-duty module systems together with BPW axles. They were given the task of accompanying the Shuttle on its “final voyage”. The Space Shuttle arrived at JFK International Airport on the back of a Boeing 747. The Bay Crane team then used specially developed lifting gear to safely lift the Shuttle onto the Goldhofer axles. The Space Shuttle travelled for about a mile on land before it was then also loaded onto a barge and carried over the Hudson River to its destination.

Span of almost 24 metres

Bay Crane was the first company to be able to lift the Space Shuttle on and off with just one crane. “We are very proud of that”, explains Kenny Bernardo, Vice President Operations of the company. Stefan Fuchs, former Chairman of the Board of the Memmingen-based public limited company, said at the time: “The Space Shuttle transport is the highlight of our success story. Our modular heavy-duty systems are not considered the most reliable heavy-duty axles in the world for nothing. When our customers consistently rely on Goldhofer quality for prestigious projects like this, it’s the best possible reference for us.”

Indeed, the Space Shuttle has an unladen weight of 70 tonnes, is 37.24 metres long and has a wingspan of almost 24 metres. Even during land transport, the wing area of the Space Shuttle is thus almost 250 square metres. A total of 24 axles of the THP/SL type and a 230-ton flat bed bridge were needed to transport the decommissioned Space Shuttle – these and the entire team did a great job.

In 125 years of company history, many extraordinary transport operations have been carried out on BPW axles. We show some of the highlights in this series. You can find more of them – and important patents of Bergische Achsen KG – here.
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