Schneider Automation Aids Shuttle Program

By Control Engineering Staff July 22, 2002

Kennedy Space Center, Fla . – What better time to showcase Schneider Electric products on the NASA shuttle program than when NASCAR is in town? Bobby Hamilton, driver of the Schneider-sponsored Winston Cup team, was in Daytona for the Pepsi 400 on July 6 and took advantage of the opportunity to tour the Space Center and see the Schneider products used there. Control Engineering’s senior editor, Gary Mintchell, was invited along for a look behind the scenes.

The tour included stops at the vehicle assembly building (VAB), crawler, engineering offices, control room, and launch pads. NASCAR is popular in Florida, and Mr. Hamilton obliged many with autographs. Imagine someone accustomed to 200 mph speeds at the wheel of the crawler, a vehicle that transports the final shuttle/rocket assembly from VAB to launch pad at an incredible maximum speed of 0.9 mph. Modicon 800 series I/O are still uses as part of the crawler control.

The vast amounts of white smoke visible on the launch pad during rocket firing is actually steam. Engineers discovered that acoustic energy, that is noise, is very great at ignition and initial firing. Water is used as an acoustic dampening agent and must be released in great quantities just prior to ignition. In the upgraded system just being installed, Schneider’s Modicon Quantum PLCs will be controlling release of 500,000 gallons of water in just 16 seconds.

At the end, Mr. Hamilton and astronaut Mike Mullane chatted with space center visitors around the Schneider No. 55. Each was wondering which was scarier-driving at 180 mph just inches from other cars at the same speed or lifting off on a rocket that can get you to the middle of Africa from Florida in minutes.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Gary A. Mintchell, senior editor