Powered by heavy-duty air bags, this pneumatic lift raised three rocket-sized parachutes to the top of the Ares X-1 launch vehicle. Photo courtesy Herkules Equipment Corp.

As NASA’s primary industry partner in human space operations, the United Space Alliance (USA) was a natural choice to be part of the space agency’s Ares I program-which included the successful launch on Oct. 28, 2009, of the Ares I-X launch vehicle from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL.

Headquartered in Houston, USA was established in 1995. USA is equally owned by The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. and has 8,800 employees working at sites in Texas, Florida and Alabama.

Ares I-X was the first stage prototype and design concept demonstrator in the Ares I program. During construction of the Ares I-X launch vehicle, USA rocket engineers needed to get three 2,400-pound rocket-sized parachutes to the top section of the Ares I-X’s booster rocket. These parachutes would be deployed in the first stage separation  123 seconds after lift-off.

To meet this challenge, USA worked with the Herkules Equipment Corp., a pneumatic lifting equipment manufacturer. USA provided Herkules with unique specifications for the lift system’s raised height, travel, footprint and portability-including its ability to be moved when and where needed. NASA provided safety standards that included a three-times safety factor.

Herkules’ engineering team designed a pneumatic lift system that met all specifications and safety standards. The lift system was powered by heavy-duty air bags, which provided a smooth, stable lifting motion and direct one-to-one lift ratio. The air bags also eliminated stress on the scissors, minimizing wear and maintenance.

For more information on pneumatic lift systems, call 800-444-4351 or visit www.herkules.us.