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Konecranes modernises the rotary crane at the Institute for Space Propulsion

Konecranes has modernised the rotary crane at the German research organisation DLR’s test facility for rocket engines in Lampoldshausen.

The Lampoldshausen facility, also known as Germany’s Institute of Space Propulsion, is testing several rocket engines for future European space travel currently, including the upper stage for the Ariane 6 launch rockets. The tests are planned in great detail with the process flows monitored and timed precisely.

There are eight facilities at Lampoldshausen. The P4 test facility is one of the most modern in the world and is able to recreate the conditions rockets will experience at high altitudes and later when flying in space.

Valuable research equipment, often weighing several tonnes is delivered and unloaded when preparing for tests. This is a key task for the rotary crane on the roof of the building, which is nearly 12m tall.

“We closely inspected the 1964 rotary crane on the roof of the test facility and together with DLR developed a concept to update the crane system to the latest technical level,” said Werner Marquardt, project manager of modernisations at Konecranes.

“With features such as the frequency-regulated drives for the rotating gear and overhead gantry, the rotary now meets all the modern requirements of the test facility and its operations.”

The crane company also reinforced the steel structure and renewed its corrosion protection coating. Worn mechanical components were replaced and the crane’s electrical system 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 -5 to +40 degrees Celsius with wind, rain, sun and snow.

Konecranes dismantled the crane, removed the main structure and reinforced and repainted it. Now reinstalled, the crane can move heavier loads of up to five tonnes with an outreach of 15m.

“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,” said Tilo Kunath, project manager at DLR.

“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 five tonnes, which means power and sensitivity need to go together.”

Konecranes also replaced the two direct-current engines of the rotating gear and overhead gantry with frequency-regulated drives.

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.

The new technical system is housed within high-quality and robust switching cabinets. Additionally, a cover protects the switching system on the boom from the changing weather.

Mechanical parts 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 aspects of the crane also received an upgrade. 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,” Thilo said.

“We work on a tight schedule. This is why we need to be able to rely on our crane system.”

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