How many companies in the Greater Lehigh Valley can say their product helped a crew launch into outer space?
One Berks County manufacturer can say it.
American Crane & Equipment Corporation in Douglassville, a manufacturer of cranes, hoists and other material handling equipment, recently helped lift and stack the Orion spacecraft crew module at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The company used its 25-ton overhead clean room crane to complete the stacking, which took place inside the final assembly and system test cell inside the operations and checkout facility at the center.
“One of the product lines we have is specialized lifting equipment for special applications,” Karen Norheim, vice president of marketing and information technology for American Crane, said this morning. “We have done other work with lifting satellites. We also do a lot of work with the nuclear power industry, the energy and aerospace industry.”
According to a news release, the custom overhead crane strategically lifted and placed Lockheed Martin’s Orion crew module atop its service module. Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., is the prime contractor building the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
American Crane’s product is specifically designed with micro-speed movements to connect these components and includes stainless steel self-locking fasteners, runway conductor bars enclosed in plastic housing, a debris shield on the lower block that prevents small particles from falling off the crane and kick-plates on all walkways, capturing any dirt or debris.
Later this year, an Orion will launch (with no crew) on a Delta IV Heavy rocket and travel 3,600 miles beyond low Earth orbit, 15 times farther than the international space station. That same day, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of about 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
This flight test will help ensure the safety of the flight crew for future manned flights.
According to Lockheed Martin’s website, Orion is NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, deep space exploration with humans. Orion will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit, such as asteroids, the moon and eventually Mars, and return them back to Earth.