NASA uses a huge amount of lifting equipment, both here on earth and up in space.
The Lifting Device and Equipment (LDEs) that they use include some of the following:
Special hoist-supported personnel lifting device
Slings and rigging
Mobile aerial platforms
Powered industrial trucks
But what does NASA use lifting equipment for? And how do they ensure that it’s safe?
NASA uses the same lifting equipment that you are accustomed to seeing and using. It’s highly likely that you are familiar with a lot of the above equipment- here at Lifting Gear Direct, we definitely sell a lot of it. The bulk of NASA’s manufacturing work, naturally, takes place on earth, and so they use the same kinds of equipment as everyone else.
This is because they need the lifting equipment for the same reasons: to lift, and lower, heavy objects, and to do so safely and in a controlled manner.
The lifting equipment that NASA uses in space is a bit different. It’s not the kind of equipment that you’re probably used to seeing, or the kind that we sell, because it is used in a completely different environment and needs to be able to withstand different conditions and to perform different jobs.
NASA lifting equipment is highly advanced and sophisticated. It is often incredibly lightweight, and both moves and operates differently. A great example of this is the Canadian Crane, which has been used in space for over 10 years.
The Canadian Crane is a huge crane, capable of transferring cargo and releasing satellites. It assists with docking the space shuttle into the International Space Station, and is naturally very different to an ordinary crane. It’s sometimes referred to as a “robotic arm” because of it’s dexterity and flexibility.
So while NASA doesn’t use ordinary lifting equipment in space, what they do use has the same idea and intention: it’s just a bit more advanced, to make it appropriate for space.
We’ve collected just a few of the safety features that NASA implements for all of it’s earth-bound lifting equipment. This is just a fraction of what is outlined in their mandatory procedural requirements document for lifting equipment. We think this is especially interesting when compared with our own safety procedures, as we can see what is the same and what is different- so we think it’ll be interesting for you, too.
NASA has its own committee dedicated to lifting equipment. They are responsible for overseeing the design, procurement, testing, inspection, maintenance, personnel certification and operation of all LDE. They also provide a forum for discussion and the exchange of information.
The current LDE Program Executive is Clifton Arnold, who has worked alongside NASA and the Department of Defence for over 35 years, in mechanical engineering and project management.
The Lifting Device Equipment Manager, or LDEM, is responsible for all lifting equipment. It is their job to ensure that all equipment adheres to NASA policies and wider regulations. This means that they organise and enforce many of the lifting equipment safety practices that we’re about to explore. They are hugely important to the work at NASA- so much so, that a second position was created to take up the role in their absence: the Alternate Lifting Device Equipment Manager.
To operate lifting device and equipment, personnel must complete training which exceeds OSHA requirements. This training must be completed through an industry-recognised trainer, centre or programme, and have physical, written and practical elements. There are both classroom and on-the-job requirements for all workers, from riggers and signal personnel to overhead crane operators.
A full equipment inventory is completed. Every time new equipment is purchased, this inventory is updated accordingly.
The loading equipment is stored safely and carefully. It is essential that it can’t be damaged by heat, moisture or chemicals.
All equipment needs to comply with the relevant regulations and legislations. For NASA, this includes:
If you’re based in the UK, like us, you may be interested in the equivalent UK regulations and legislations, which are outlined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It’s regularly updated, and some key information may have changed since we left the EU, so it’s always worth having a look.
The necessary protective equipment varies across the different tools, and is regularly updated. Hardhats are required for all personnel during crane operations. PPE must be readily available and worn.
It is essential that all loading equipment is entirely sound from the outset. An initial inspection, prior to using the equipment, ensures that it meets the requirements of internal and external legislation.
All lifting equipment undergoes daily inspection to ensure that it is safe to use. Personnel will check for cracks, deformations, kinks and corrosion, amongst other defects.
These inspections occur monthly, and are performed by a maintenance contractor. It is carefully documented so that it can be referred to in the future.
This refers to a yearly inspection. It is the most comprehensive, as a qualified individual evaluates the machinery and determines whether any hardware needs to be replaced or repaired.
All lifting equipment will be subject to two kinds of load tests: a proof load test and a periodic load test. A proof load test is done prior to first use, and all equipment is tested at 2.00 times the rated load. A periodic load test is done every year, and all equipment is tested at 1.00 times the rated load.
This blog post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NASA’s lifting equipment and safety procedures. They have so many policies and regulations for their LDE, because this equipment is essential to their work, and so it’s smooth operation and the health and wellbeing of its operators are paramount.
If you use lifting equipment in your own line of work, it could be useful to look at NASA as a leading example. Maybe they’re using some equipment that could prove beneficial to you, or maybe one of their safety procedures could greatly improve on what you’re currently doing. If nothing else, it’s amazing to see how similar we all are to a huge and innovative corporation, such as NASA.
If you’re interested in learning more about lifting equipment, and hearing other tidbits of industry advice, then feel free to check out some of our other blog posts.