This is NASA's New Giant Crawler For its Next-Generation Spaceship

By Jesus Diaz on at

Things keep moving at Florida's Kennedy Space Center in preparation for the first mission of NASA's Space Launch System and its Orion spacecraft in 2017. The crawler-transporter just passed the "first phase of an important milestone test".

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program completed testing of new traction roller bearings on crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2), on two of the massive vehicle's truck sections, A and C, in late January. The new roller bearing assemblies that were installed on one side of the crawler are visible in this Jan. 31, 2014 image. CT-2 returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center, where work continues to install new roller bearing assemblies on the B and D truck sections.

These crawlers have been in use for 45 years, starting with the Saturn rockets for the Apollo missions. Then they were retrofitted for the space shuttle. Now, the Crawler-Transported 2 has been upgraded to "to increase the lifted-load capacity from 12 million to 18 million pounds [5,443 tonnes to 8,164 tonnes] to support the weight of the mobile launcher and future launch vehicles, including the SLS and Orion."

This is NASA's new giant crawler for its next-generation spaceship

For comparison, here's the latest retrofitted version of the crawler...

This is NASA's new giant crawler for its next-generation spaceship

...which used to carry the shuttle...

This is NASA's new giant crawler for its next-generation spaceship

...and the Saturn rocket before that.

This is NASA's new giant crawler for its next-generation spaceship