in Space

Konecranes modernises rotary crane at rocket drives test facility

Posted 2 October 2018 · Add Comment

Konecranes is modernising the rotary crane at the test facility for rocket drives at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt DLR (German Aerospace Centre), installing the latest technology to increase its efficiency and safety.

Lampoldshausen, the headquarters of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt DLR (German Aerospace Centre) is where technology is being developed for European space travel. The upper station drives for the Ariane launch rockets are tested here, at the P4 test facility. The tests are planned in great detail with the process flows monitored and timed precisely. The rotary crane on the building roof plays an important role in preparing these tests. The ageing crane system was in need of an upgrade. Konecranes provided a solution that not only made the crane more efficient and safer but also reduced operating costs using the latest in electrical systems and drive technology.

At DLR’s Institute of Space Propulsion, 320 employees are primarily researching drive gear technology for the upper stations of the Ariane launch rocket family. This technology is used when supplying the International Space Station ISS and in the development of the European satellite navigation system Galileo. The drive gears are tested at the P4 test facility, one of a total of eight test facilities in Lampoldshausen, under the conditions they will be exposed to later when flying in space. Valuable research equipment, weighing several tonnes is delivered and unloaded when preparing these tests. This is a key task for the rotary crane on the roof of the building, which is nearly 12 meters tall. In order to upgrade the old crane system, DLR counted on the experience and competence of Konecranes, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of crane and lifting technology.

“We closely inspected the 1964 rotary crane on the roof of the test facility P4 and together with DLR, developed a concept to update the crane system to the latest technical level. With features such as the frequency-regulated drives for the rotating gear and overhead gantry, the rotary crane now meets all the modern requirements of test facility and its operation,” said Werner Marquardt, Project Manager Modernisations at Konecranes.

The crane experts also reinforced the steel structure and renewed its corrosion protection coating. Worn mechanical components were replaced and the crane’s electrical system completely changed. With new footbridges, platforms and ladders, Konecranes also improved the access and safety of the crane system.

On the roof of the rocket drive test facility, the crane system must withstand a range of temperatures from minus 5 to plus 40 degrees Celsius with wind, rain, sun and snow in all seasons. Moreover, the state of Baden-Württemberg has more rainfall than any other in Germany. 965 liters per square meter fell on average in 2016.

Werner said: “Over the years, the weather exposure has had a heavy impact on the rust-protection and the steel structure,” For this reason, Konecranes specialists first dismantled the counterweight of 5.5. tonnes before removing the main structure of the 13.8-tonne crane. This was removed with the help of two truck-mounted cranes and placed on the terrain surface. For the transport, a special screwed joint was fitted between the boom and the 3.2-tonne base section for safety and stability. In a preparation hall, crane experts removed the remaining paint layer by sandblasting. Then following a comprehensive welding program, the steel structure was successfully reinforced and statically recalculated. Finally, the crane system received an entirely new coat of paint to protect it from the elements. Now back and installed in the test facility, the rotary crane is now able to move loads of up to 5 tonnes with an outreach of 15 metres. Additionally, with an outreach of 10.3 metres, it is now possible to transport loads of up to 7.5 tonnes.

Thilo Kunath, Project Manager at DLR said: “When preparing our rocket drive tests, system parts such as filters, flaps and pipes, as well as additional technical research material and equipment are transported to the test facility using trucks. The rotary crane lifts the sensitive material from the loading surface and manoeuvres it with precision to the gate of the test facility. Individual key parts may have a weight of more than 5 tonnes – this means power and sensitivity need to go together.” So Konecranes replaced the two direct-current engines of the rotating gear and overhead gantry with frequency-regulated drives.

Werner said: “Until now, operators were only able to select between four speeds. This is inefficient, particularly with a lifting height of 34 metres. For this reason, we recommended to DLR our drives in the CXT series.”

With the new drive technology, the speed of the rotating movement and the overhead gantry can be continuously adjusted by the operator who can now control the lifting and transport processes with more precision. Moreover, the new drives are very low-maintenance thanks to their internal disc brakes. Another advantage: given the lower starting torques the impact stress is reduced to a minimum. Everything from the drive components to the steel construction and even the building are now subject to less stress, thus improving durability.

The new electrical system is housed within high quality and robust switching cabinets. Additionally, a roof protects the switching system on the boom from the changing weather. Mechanical parts with age-related signs of wear were also replaced, such as the couplings and the two rope guide rollers that guide the steel rope on the boom. The safety concept also received an upgrade and was adapted to the new machinery directives. The circular footbridges and ladders were fitted with anti-slip sheets and the rotary crane received a new platform to ensure the highest levels of safety when accessing the rotary crane.

“At our P4 test facility, we develop technology that allows the exploration of space. The tests that take place at the facility are very complex. We work on a tight schedule. This is why we need to be able to rely on our crane system. Konecranes has provided excellent advice during the process. We benefit from lower maintenance costs and more efficiency in preparing our tests. The rejuvenating cure the experts from Konecranes applied to our rotary crane increases its durability and life-cycle costs decrease significantly,” said Thilo.

Mark Goringe, Konecranes Industrial Service - Area Director, Mid West Europe, said:“Konecranes also carries out significant modernisations and upgrades to various crane systems within the United Kingdom in Industries such as Power, Automotive, Waste to Energy and Steel as well as across the general manufacturing sector. In recent months, Konecranes has undertaken a high number of interesting modernisation projects, from full electrical modernisations including semi-automated cranes to hoist and trolley replacements and overhauls to name just a few.”


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