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NASA: Crawler-Transporter


The Astrovan

The Crawler gets the rocket to the launch pad but what about the astronauts? In the Apollo era NASA uses a Cortez Motor Home to take the crews out to the pad. The vehicle could take up to four astronauts and was used for Apollo, Skylab, Apollo/Soyuz and the early Space Shuttle missions. It was replaced with a  larger vehicle which could carry the larger Space Shuttle crews.

The Apollo Era Astrovan has been restored and is on display at the Kenedy Space Center.

I was lucky to find a pdf of the Cortez owner's manual containing the overall dimensions of the vehicle, which translated to a 3x7 stud outline at 1:110 scale. A perfect match to the trophy scale Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Building the model is quite straight forward (it is mostly a rectangular block), the wheels are the only tricky bit. The wheel hubs are the ends of the axles, to get this to line up perfectly with the wheels I pushed the 'wheel' studs further than required onto the 'axle' rod and then, with the axel vertical and on a flat surface, slid the 'wheel' stud down. A flat surface is also useful for centering the wheels and axles on the completed vehicle.

If you want the later Astrovan 'KingsKnight' included building instructions as an update to his fantastic 1:110 Space Shuttle which is currently being reviewed by LEGO.


Crawler internal machinery space.

With a launch pad sitting on top of the crawler and the load needing to be carried by the four tractor units it may be possible to build the NASA Crawler-Transported with internal detailing. Here is a render of the internal space showing the motor generators and hydraulic pumps which power the vehicle. It would increase the part count by about 250 pieces (allowing for removing the original structure).



My 1:110 scale NASA rocket collection

When I started out designing models to match the scale of the Saturn V, I planned to make then up in LEGO. After a few weeks of finalising designs and waiting for a backordered Saturn V. I have completed the builds of the rockets. The line up is Mercury-Redstone, Mercury Atlas, Gemini Titan II, 'Little Joe II' escape system test rocket on its launcher, Saturn 1B, Apollo Saturn V, Skylab Saturn V.

Build instructions for the 'Little Joe II' Rocket are below in this project's updates. The Mercury-Redstone and Gemini-Titan II instructions can be found in my NASA Mercury/Gemini Updates.

The Skylab payload is in the updates for my Skylab 3 in 1 project.

More building instructions to follow in the near future.


Bonus 1:110 scale build

I designed a model of 'Little Joe II' at a scale to match the Saturn V.

As a thank you for all of the support the crawler project has received I have prepared a set of building instructions, so you can make your own ‘Little Joe II’.

'Little Joe II' was used to test the Launch Escape System (LES) attached to the Apollo Capsule. The small rocket system designed to pull the capsule away to safety if the launch vehicle failed. A smaller version ‘Little Joe’ was used to test a similar system fitted to the Mercury Capsules. In total 5 unmanned tests were conducted with the Apollo LES between 1963 and 1966 and in every case the system worked.

The finished model stands 25 cm tall, I have included a full parts list but just the main rocket body could be built and the CSM from the Saturn V attached (add the CMS in at step 9 - the engine fits inside the body of the rocket).

The design of the Little Joe II rocket is my own work, the service module in the instructions incorporates several features of Saturn V design (attitude thrusters and a ring to allow the capsule to separate easily. The design of the LES and capsule is identical to the Saturn V (It just wouldn’t have looked right if I had changed it and to be honest what would be better anyway? the LEGO Saturn V design is perfect.)

In all 37 parts make up the Rocket section, 18 the Service Module and 18 for the LES and capsule. It’s a small parts count and hopefully shouldn’t be expensive to purchase the individual parts.

Please post a comment if you do make your own model of ‘Little Joe II’ and please share my NASA projects with your friends.



Skylab 1973

In 1973 the Crawler took the last Saturn V to the Pad. Skylab was the first American Space Station, it was built inside the third stage of the Rocket, and it orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979 when it fell back to Earth. Between May 1973 and 1974 there were three manned missions to the station,

Converting the Saturn V from Apollo to Skylab could be achieved using just eight additional pieces of LEGO. 4 off 6173190: Bow 1/4 4X4X1 (Black) and 4 off 4513990: Wall Element 4X4X6 (White) - the rest of the payload shroud is made up from existing pieces - the LEM shroud, Command Module and a part from the Launch Escape Tower. I have also changed some of the panels on the third stage from white to black to match the original rocket's markings. (I feel the need for a second Saturn V set!)

This was the last Saturn V carried but the Crawler went on to moving the Space Shuttle 135 times to the pad between 1981 and 2011.


My dream display- Full Saturn V on Crawler

I am waiting for the Saturn V to be delivered, thankfully the instructions are avaialble and I have spent several hours building an LDD version of the rocket. My computer struggled to move the 1969 piece rocket onto a pad and memory was an issue for the renderer, however, it was worth it. The pad and tower are still to be developed but here is a close up of the rocket held on the clamps.

...and here it is in full. 1.2m tall.

The Saturn V is an incredible build and I am looking forward to making it up when my set arrives.


More detailed Shuttle Pad

My first update featured the Shuttle 'Expedition' being carried on a very basic model of the Shuttle Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP). I have worked on the design of the pad and have incorporated the main features into this model. There are three large holes for the SRBs and main  Shuttle engines exhaust plumes to go into the Launch Complex's fire pit. The water drenching system for the SRBs and the six towers of the water system which drenched the back of the pad with a mass of water to protect the Shuttle and its payloads from any damage that may occur from acoustical energy reflected from the MLP during launch. 300,000 gallons of water in just 41 seconds.



Time for the LUT to go to the VAB

With thousands of Saturn V builds about to start around the word its time for the Crawler-Transporter to take the Mobile Launch Platform with the Launch Umbilical Tower to Vehicle Assembly Building. (This is an early prototype of the LUT, the VAB is my own arcitecture project)


Mock-up of Crawler plus Shuttle 10231

This update shows how the Crawler-Transporter would look like used with the Shuttle Expedition Set 10231. The Mobile Launch Platform is just a very rough model (using container panels) and has very little detail, it is just to give you an idea of the size of a fully integrated model (Vehicle, Crawler and Launch pad).