Paving the Way for SLS and Future Space Exploration

Jones Edmunds is proud to be a part of the future at NASA. Our team completed the analysis of the foundation of the Kennedy Space Center Crawlerway. The original Crawlerway was constructed in the 1960s with a total length of 5.6 miles through the Lagoon System.

With NASA preparing to launch the Space Launch System (SLS) in 2020, the Crawlerway must be able to support the new heavier rocket. It will be carrying the heaviest known load in the world when the SLS is transported a distance of 4.5 miles from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad. The SLS weighs 25.5 million pounds and is 25% heavier than any previous load to be moved. The project originally started with a weight requirement of 24.5 million pounds for the foundation before being increased to 25.5 million pounds.

During the last 10 years, the strength of the Crawlerway has waned and long periods of inactivity have contributed to the weakening of the soil strength. The Jones Edmunds Team was tasked with designing a conditioning program to improve the soil strength and allow heavier rocket loads, like the SLS, to be transported from the VAB to the launchpad.

The Team’s challenge is to improve the soil strength of the Crawlerway so that it can safely accommodate a 25.5 million pound load with a nearly 100% reliability. Specialized field tests and over 200 testing instruments will be placed on the Crawlerway and will record data in real-time as the Crawler Transporter moves along the Crawlerway at increasing loads and speeds.

The Team will use a 3D predictive numerical model to predict the reliability of heavy loads to roll out on the Crawlerway foundation. Multiple iterations are used to calibrate the current field data results with this geotechnical tool.

The analysis determined that after the Crawlerway Conditioning Program is performed successfully, it is possible to achieve a reliability greater than 99.99%, which is substantially higher than the current 50%. A successful test of the rollout was completed in August 2018 with the Crawler Transporter and Mobile Launch followed by a Conditioning Program in 2019 and 2020.

Jones Edmunds is proud to have partnered with the NASA and the Spaceport community for nearly 28 years working on over 400 projects for the civil infrastructure and facilities needs at Kennedy Space Center.