MLE Lift Designed for Satellite's Clean Room at Cape Canaveral

Man & Material Lift Engineering, Cudahy, Wis., is a critical part in the satellite launch process at Cape Canaveral, the Office of Space Launch (OSL) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The NRO designs, builds and operates the nation's reconnaissance satellites. With nearly one year of development work to produce the manlift specifically designed for Clean Room operation, the T100CR was delivered to the Cape Canaveral Clean Room facility on May 5, 2008.

A team of engineers from Lockheed Martin, The Aerospace Corporation and the United States Air Force were all part of generating the exact specifications needed to best handle the satellite processing. MLE engineers were involved in the initial site survey to review all the applications and locations that the T100CR was to be used in. Of the two separate locations, one was much smaller and drove the requirement for the extremely short stowed length.

The engineers conceived and designed the T100CR specifically for this application. Everything from the five-stage boom and jib, which resulted in a very short stowed length, to the 8-foot width without extendable axles for working in close quarters were designed specifically for this project.

The T100CR primarily works on the satellite ferring, which covers the satellite when it rests on top of the rocket, according to Greg Irby, MLE sales coordinator. The lift is also used occasionally when there is work that needs to be completed at elevated heights on the satellite. It is also used in other maintenance tasks in all aspects of the clean room.

When the satellite is delivered to the Cape, it is prepared for launch, meaning that it is unpackaged from the vendor and several parts are assembled and adjusted for launch. Then it is put inside the outer protective shell (the ferring) and then married to the rocket and moved to the launch pad. The lift is used in all steps of the preparation process prior to attaching it to the rocket.

The satellite's sensitivity to dust and debris required the lift to be Clean Room ready. Clean Room manlifts are designed for environments that require minimal particulate emissions such as the aerospace, computer and film processing industries. These industries have controlled environments and require specific "non-emitting" features for any equipment operated in the Clean Room. Even the paints and plating have specific requirements so no harmful "Off-gassing" can occur. The machine is designed for 1000 Class Clean Room. Workers in the room also wear protective suits to keep debris to a minimum.

Irby said the company designs and builds more new products from prototype to production than anyone. “We had a 12-month period within the last 18 months where we completed one new prototype every month for 12 months straight,” he said. “Nobody has our breadth of engineering or our ability to build and test new products at a very sophisticated level.”

The manlift features a 100-foot platform height and a stowed length of 36 feet. The lift is powered by both battery and AC power. With a platform capacity of 750 pounds, the machine also has a 5-foot by 5-foot platform, 4-wheel steering and ultra smooth controls. The T100CR came with a laptop that can be connected to it and the MLE office can view all the settings while it is operating. Uptime is extremely critical and this feature was very important.