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Case Study: United Space Alliance

Eugene "Doc" Haught, Senior Design Engineer

United Space Alliance (USA) is the prime Space Shuttle contractor for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with responsibilities that include maintaining and processing the Space Shuttle fleet for flight, training and equipping the crew and providing mission planning and support. One of the most visible jobs is responsibility for launching the space shuttle from Kennedy Space Center, including the launch structure clean-up phase afterwards.

Immediately after each launch, the USA team activates an automatic wash-down sequence to remove and neutralize the corrosive solid propellant rocket residue that gets deposited on the 247-foot tall steel launch support structure. To handle this job quickly and thoroughly, the group worked with Akron Brass to develop an automated monitor system that goes into operation with the touch of a button.

The system consists of four modified Akron Brass Conquest monitors with programmable controls. Two monitors are positioned to clean the portion of the launch structure nearest the booster rocket, and two other monitors clean the sides. As soon as water starts flowing to the system, the nozzles follow a user-defined, pre-programmed pattern specially designed to wash even the most difficult-to-reach parts of the structure.

“The rocket propellant residue needs to be removed quickly to prevent damage,” says Eugene “Doc” Haught, senior design engineer with USA. “We approached Akron Brass and gave them our requirements, and they responded with a monitor control system designed for our special needs. Once the system was installed, they worked with us further to refine the operation. With the new automated system, we can start clean-up within minutes after the shuttle lifts off the pad.”

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