Tag Archives: barge

Pegasus Has Set Sail!

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6:38 pm Central Time
The Pegasus crew and tug boat crew let go all lines and Angelica E moved into position forward of Pegasus. Angelica crewmen threw heaving lines over to the Pegasus as the full Pegasus crew hauled in the heavy tow cables from Angelica E on to Pegasus bow and looped them over the two forward bollards — large steel posts used for securing mooring lines.  Watch the paying out of the tow line

6:52 pm, Sunday,  Central Time
Pegasus — and its VIP, ET-134 — is under tow by Angelica E while tug boat Emmett Eymard is providing push from aft. Pegasus and ET-134 are under way into the Intracoastal Waterway, heading east for Gulfport, Miss. via Chef Menteur Pass, Rigolets and the Mississippi Sound.

Life on Board Pegasus: Keeping ET Safe and Sound

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Life on board Pegasus is a mixture of work, mainly checks and servicing of machinery; monitoring the status of the VIP, ET-134 in this case, monitoring the status of the towing operation and filling in the day with opportunities for exercise and relaxing. 

The total floor space of the crew quarters is something like living in an RV (with somewhat higher ceilings). Trappings are non existent; the basics for preparing food, personal hygiene and sleeping bunks are provided and would make any Spartan soldier used to sleeping on rocks more than comfortable.

Above the crew quarters is an area equivalent to a foredeck, open to the sea, where large and heavy, linked chain lie on deck waiting to be hooked up to the tow line, whether provided by the tug boats or the Liberty Star or Freedom Star.

Above the foredeck is the bridge; a fully enclosed operations center permitting monitoring the status of the towing operations, monitoring ET-134’s safe and happy transit via video and observation of the sea; much smaller than Liberty Star; with fewer electronics.

Once under way a member of the crew stands watch at all times throughout the six day voyage, moving throughout the barge checking running lights, machinery and bilges, the lowest point on the barge, and of course ET.

Behind the crew quarters is the cavernous cargo deck area housing ET-134. The cargo bay or deck is more than sufficient to house ET-134’s 154 foot-length, 27 foot-diameter, and 58,000 lbs. Vibration incurred during the transit is recorded throughout the trip, and analyzed after arriving at Kennedy Space Center. 

ET-134 is no longer entirely residing its original mobile transporter in quite the same way it arrived on deck. It actually is now suspended or mounted on four large pedestals lifting ET off the transporters’ four large wheel assemblies, but at the same time attached at three points to the transporters upper arms and rear structure. This permits ET to ride the seas and absorb motion just like Pegasus; no shifting to port or starboard, fore or aft.  ET is taking the second best voyage of its life; waiting for its flight into space.

Pegasus Ready for Sea,Skies Are Blue,High Winds Remain The Issue — Aarg!

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The Pegasus crew rallied today on the barge for inspections and machinery checkouts; reporting all is well; Pegasus and ET-134 are in great shape and ready to sail. Crew members Lead Technician Rick Gager, Pegasus Engineer Dave Harris, Able Bodied Seaman Skip Conway, and Ordinary Seaman Jim Harrington made inspections and checks and checked on the weather forecast. 


The crew of Pegasus gathers on the bridge on Friday afternoon under clear blue skies
but intensifying winds. Pegasus is ready to get under way; waiting only for lessening winds.
The Pegasus crew from left to right — Engineer Dave Harris of Toledo, Ohio; Ordinary
Seaman Jim Harrington of Scotts Hill, Tenn.; Able Bodied Seaman Skip Conway of
New York, NY; and Lead Crewman Rick Gager of Newburgh, NY. Credit: NASA

During the night a the cold front passed thru the New Orleans area as forecast,  bringing rain and winds, some gusting to 30 knots near Michoud Assembly Facility.  Under bright , beautiful and clearing skies the winds have intensified as predicted. The current forecast calls for unrelenting winds through Saturday into Sunday afternoon. The first best opportunity to get underway via the tug boats is Sunday evening and the maritime operations team is eyeing the Sunday evening window very closely. For now, winds prohibiting departure are intensifying.
 
On a more positive note the crew and visitors assembled in the Pegasus’ galley for a meal of homemade split pea soup, piping hot, fit for a sailor, thickened with nice beefy chunks of ham, carrots and onions and topped off with multigrain muffins; best ever eaten on the face of the Earth by any sailors at sea or in port. Aarg! Indeed!

Pegasus: The 'Winged Horse' of the Space Program

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Transporting one of NASA’s external tanks from Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is no simple operation. The external tank, which is 153.8 ft long, 27.6 feet in diameter and weighs approximately 58,500 pounds, is transported via a specially designed and built, ocean-going barge. The barge, known as the Pegasus, is 266 ft long and 50 ft wide and is currently utilized by the Space Shuttle Program to transport external tanks over 900 miles of inland and open ocean waterways from the Michoud Assembly Facility to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For this trip external tank number 134 (ET-134) is our Very Important Passenger — a genuine VIP. 


Three seamen and one technician crew the barge 24/7 when underway from the barge’s regular mooring site near the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

In Greek mythology Pegasus is a winged horse, captured by and made to serve warrior Bellerophon. Among the many versions of Pegasus’ role and life there are two that seem to stand out. In one version Pegasus brings forth water or fresh springs where ever she steps. In another version Pegasus brings forth lightning or is the god of lightning. The role of NASA’s Pegasus seems to integrate both these mythological versions; NASA’s Pegasus lives, works and travels on water. And Pegasus delivers to the Kennedy Space Center the external tanks that feed the smoke and fire of a space shuttle launch; smoke, fire, thunder, and awe.

For many years the Pegasus, towed by the reusable solid rocket booster (RSRB) recovery ships, took the route through the Mississippi River — Gulf Outlet (MRGO) out to the Gulf of Mexico. Recently, MRGO was closed to larger ships due to significant shoaling and severe erosion caused by Hurricane Katrina. This route was utilized up through ET-128 and took approximately 4 -5 days for the barge to arrive on dock at Kennedy.

Today Pegasus is towed by two commercial tug boats along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) through the Mississippi Sound to Gulfport, Miss. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway route is approximately 25 miles longer, with one day added to the travel schedule.  Solid rocket booster recovery ship Liberty Star will meet Pegasus at Gulfport, take Pegasus in tow and depart south into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Pegasus is manned 24 hours a day from the time it leaves Kennedy, goes to MAF and returns to Kennedy. On average, a round trip takes between 10-11 days.  Once the last external tank is shipped, the barge will be utilized by Ares I Upper Stage which also plans to use the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway route.

Marshall Space Flight Center engineers developed the technical requirements for the Pegasus Barge, Halter Marine created the design and produced the drawings. Gulf Coast Fabricators of Pascagoula, Miss., constructed and completed the 1,648 ton Pegasus in June 1999. 

NASA has used many barges to transport large spacecraft components from their respective manufacturing sites to Kennedy. Other NASA barges including Orion, Poseidon, Little Lake, Palaemon, Pearl River, Promise and USNS Point Barrow were used to tow Saturn vehicle components between Marshall , MAF, California and Stennis Research Center to Kennedy in Florida. Of the older barges, only Poseidon remains docked at Stennis, awaiting final disposition.

A New Logistics System for the 'Right Stuff'

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Hi everyone! We’re here at Michoud Assembly Facility waiting to sail with ET-134 to the Kennedy Space Center. Thought I’d share with you a little history about how NASA developed the logistics system to move and support all this heavy, outsized spacecraft hardware.


ET-134 moves inside the Pegasus covered barge at NASA’s Michoud Assembly
Facility. Credit: Lockheed Martin

When the space program kicked into high gear in the early 1960s the equipment necessary to move the very large components of spacecraft did not exist. In fact, the lack of necessary equipment almost became a limiting factor when preparing spacecraft designs and considering how to move them to launch sites, the primary location being Kennedy Space Center, Fla.


NASA used barges for transporting full-sized stages for the Saturn I, Saturn IB,
and Saturn V vehicles between the Marshall Space Flight Center; the  Michoud Assembly
Facility; the Mississippi Test Facility, now Stennis Space Center; and the Kennedy
Space Center. Credit: NASA

An agency-level logistics office was created at NASA Headquarters in Washington to orchestrate and coordinate a complex set of requirements based on a new and developing program, the Saturn/Apollo Program, and very geographically dispersed set of players, including various NASA centers, test sites, launch sites, suppliers, contractors, and manufacturers; an amazing challenge.

Spacecraft could be built, but now they had to be moved. In the early 1960s Marshall Space Flight Center developed its own logistics management office and began developing plans for a “fleet” of specialized transporters to move the “right stuff.”

Eventually, with assistance and vessels from the U.S. Navy, NASA developed its own ocean-going fleet of seven barges capable of transporting most of the components of the Saturn/Apollo program from home bases to Kennedy Space Center for launch operations.


Aerial view of NASA Dock at Michoud Assembly Facility with four barges, left to right,
Paleamon, Promise, Poseidon and Orion. The barges ferried Saturn IB and
Saturn V stages between the Marshall Space Center; the Michoud Assembly
Facility; the Mississippi Test Facility, now Stennis Space Center; and the
Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

A smaller fleet of two oversize and heavily modified aircraft known as the Super Guppy and the Pregnant Guppy were procured for movement by air of Saturn F-1 engines, lunar modules and S-IVB stages.

 
NASA’s B377SGT Super Guppy Turbine cargo aircraft touches down at Edwards
Air Force Base, Calif., June 11, 2000, to deliver the latest version of the X-38 flight
test vehicle to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Credit: NASA

Also, NASA made use of the railroads for moving Saturn propellants and even U.S. Army CH-47 helicopters to move large components from long distances for testing at Marshall.


The NASA Railroad train moves along the track through NASA Kennedy Space
Center’s Launch Complex 39 area. Behind the locomotive car is the Vehicle Assembly
Building. The train is hauling solid rocket booster segments from the STS-122
mission. After a mission, the spent boosters are recovered, cleaned, disassembled,
refurbished and reused. After hydrolasing the interior of each segment,
they are placed on flatbed trucks and individual booster segments are transferred
to a railhead located at the railroad yard. Credit: NASA

The Space Shuttle Program inherited significant experience and a well-oiled logistics machine from the Saturn Program. Shuttle components are moved by a wide variety of outsized transporters just as in the days of Saturn/Apollo. 

Today, components that make up the solid rocket motors (segments and aft exit cones) are transported cross-country via rail beginning in Utah where they are manufactured. With the help of multiple railroad companies, these components typically spend less than two weeks riding over the rail before arriving at the Kennedy Space Center. Once the components are offloaded, assembled, and ultimately flown in space, they are recovered, disassembled, inspected, and ultimately the segments are transported back to Utah on the same rail that brought them to Kennedy. At this stage in the process the hardware is refurbished and made ready for future flight opportunities.  Solid rocket booster components (forward assemblies, aft skirts) are manufactured at the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility at KSC and transported via ground support equipment over the Kennedy road system to the respective Kennedy facilities where these components are integrated with the solid rocket motor segments. Solid rocket booster hardware and solid rocket motor hardware, when integrated together, make up the space shuttle reusable solid rocket booster. Essentially, NASA is a railroad man as well.


Space shuttle solid rocket motor segments are transported cross-country via rail from
Utah, where they are manufactured, to the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Credit: NASA

External tanks such as ET-134, as you know already, move by barge and towing ship from New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center over water and space shuttle main engines move by truck. Some NASA equipment, such as specialized cargo or payloads for the International Space Station are moved by Super Guppy, stationed at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.   

The space shuttle orbiter flies everywhere it goes, except for short distances over ground at Kennedy. If the orbiter has to land away from Kennedy due to weather, such as at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., a special Boeing 747 pulls up and flies the orbiter back to Kennedy “piggy-back” style in just a few days.


Southern California’s high desert provides the backdrop as one of NASA’s two
modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft ferries Space Shuttle Atlantis back to the
Kennedy Space Center after departing NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center
at Edwards Air Force Base. Credit: NASA/J. Ross

Future space program hardware will likely make use of this same or similar means of transportation for movement from point of origin to the Kennedy Space Center for launch operations. 

Liberty Star’s mission to tow ET-134 to Kennedy is essentially part of a bigger NASA logistics operation.

It has been said that logistics is everything. It may be. You simply have to have the “right stuff” at the right place at the right time…to make a difference.

Sailing with NASA

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Last week, one of NASA’s Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Recovery (SRB) ships, the Liberty Star, sailed from its dock at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, picked up the tow of NASA’s Pegasus barge and headed south along the Atlantic coast, through the Straits of Florida, and across the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Gulfport, Gulfport, Miss.  The Liberty Star arrived at Gulfport, Miss., today, October 13. Two small tug boats then picked up Pegasus and towed her to Michoud Assembly facility in East New Orleans. In the early morning hours of Friday, October 16, Pegasus will arrive back in Gulfport where Liberty Star will again take the barge in tow and begin the return voyage back across the Gulf and the Straits of Florida to deliver a very important passenger to the Kennedy Space Center.

It’s a journey the Liberty Star and her sister ship, the Freedom Star, have made repeatedly since 1996.  That year the booster recovery ships were pressed into service to tow Pegasus for the major part of the voyage between Michoud Assembly Facility in East New Orleans in lieu of using commercial tug boats the entire distance. 

As mentioned above commercial tug boats are still used to tow Pegasus at the very beginning of the journey in Louisiana and Mississippi and during the final miles in a shallow and narrow channel to the turn basin in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. 

The very important passenger (VIP) that needs to be delivered to the Kennedy Space Center, on time and in good shape, is one of the most important elements of what is known as the “Shuttle Stack,” the complete towering Shuttle Transportation System. The “Stack” includes the Orbiter, the three Space Shuttle Main Engines, the two reusable solid rocket boosters and motors and the very important passenger that will ride the Pegasus; an external tank numbered 134.

ET-134 will be the backbone of the “Shuttle Stack” and the gas tank for the space shuttle main engines for the February 2010 launch of space shuttle Endeavour’s flight to the International Space Station, mission number STS-130.


Watch how an external tank “goes to sea” (Windows, streaming)

NASA public affairs officer, Steve Roy (that’s me) of the Marshall Space Flight Center, will travel on board the Pegasus and Liberty Star to give you some insight into NASA’s maritime operations and life on board the vessels that make these important 1,800 mile round trips, as well as the story of the VIP of the trip, ET-134. Steve will be joined by NASA television producer Mick Speer of Marshall Television, a former U.S. Navy photographer and television production specialist. Steve will blog via the NASA portal several times a day with updates, images and video.

To begin I’d like to explain the relationship between SRB recovery ships, the Pegasus barge, Michoud Assembly Facility and my NASA center, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.  The Marshall Center exercises overall management responsibilities for NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility where the external tanks are built by Lockheed Martin. Marshall also has management responsibility for the manufacturing, assembly and delivery of the external tanks as part of the space shuttle transportation system, as well as the solid rocket boosters and motors and space shuttle main engines.

Management responsibility for the solid rocket boosters includes their recovery at sea. The prime contractor under Marshall for booster recovery is United Space Alliance (USA) in Cape Canaveral. USA runs all aspects of day-to-day maritime operations for NASA including training crews, readiness of the NASA fleet, real time booster recovery operations, and towing external tanks for the majority of the trip to Kennedy Space Center.


From a Flickr Photo Gallery: “Booster Recovery at Sea”

I am the NASA public affairs officer with responsibility to support all aspects of the external tanks, reusable solid rocket boosters and motors and the space shuttle main engines. Thus by definition, and lucky for me, I am the NASA public affairs officer, along with the public affairs staff of United Space Alliance, with responsibility to support the role of the recovery ships, Freedom Star and Liberty Star, as well as the Pegasus barge.

I am but one spokesperson in a greater NASA public affairs team that supports space flight operations of the space shuttle, expendable launch vehicles and the International Space Station. That team includes the public affairs space operations teams at NASA Headquarters, Washington D.C.; at Johnson Space Center in Texas; at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; at Stennis Research Center in Mississippi; and the team at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The space operations public affairs team also includes other public affairs representatives at United Space Alliance (USA), which includes the major orbiter subcontractor Boeing, in Florida and Texas; Lockheed Martin/Michoud Assembly Facility (LM/MAF builds external tanks) in Louisiana; Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) builds space shuttle main engines) in California and Florida, and ATK (ATK builds RSRMs) in Utah.

Sounds complicated uh? It’s not so bad when you’re in the middle of it. Let’s get ready to go.  Grab your binoculars, flip flops, sun screen, folding chair and snacks and head to your computer. Join the voyage and Sail with NASA!