European Space Travel

At DLR’s Institute of Space Propulsion in Germany, 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 the test facility and its operation,” says 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 litres per square metre fell on average in 2016.

“Over the years, the weather exposure has had a heavy impact on the rust protection and the steel structure,” says Werner. 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.