Pipe Coating Project for NASA Space Center Proves Company’s Capabilities

Part of Cloud 9 Services’ business model is maintaining a reputation as a company that is willing to do whatever it takes to find solutions for customers

Pipe Coating Project for NASA Space Center Proves Company’s Capabilities

Curtis Walker, general manager of Cloud 9 Services of Orlando, Florida

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Over the years, Cloud 9 Services of Orlando, Florida, has established a reputation as a company that isn’t afraid to take on challenging projects. Such was the case when NASA officials at the John F. Kennedy Space Center discovered a leak in a water main.

This was no ordinary water main. The 10-inch-diameter, extra-reinforced ductile-iron pipe was buried under a 7- to 10-foot-thick reinforced concrete slab located just outside the space center’s famous Vertical Assembly Building (VAB). Built in 1965, the 525-foot-tall, 518-foot-wide behemoth — which covers 8 acres of land — has been the final assembly point for space flight icons ranging from the Saturn V rockets used in the Apollo moon missions to the space shuttles and more.

The slab is so thick because it must support the weight of the massive, 6.6-million-pound crawler-transporters that carry space vehicles from the VAB to launch pads. Replacing the pipe wasn’t an option because with a scheduled launch coming up, the center couldn’t afford disruptions to daily operations, says Curtis Walker, general manager of Cloud 9.

“Trenching it out and replacing the main would’ve shut things down for weeks, if not months,” he says. “Plus there was a huge cost savings to coat it, versus digging it up. Also, if you dig up that concrete, they have to load the rocket crawler with a crazy amount of weight after you’re finished and drive it across the slab to make sure it’s OK.” 

The crawler-transporter can carry up to 18 million pounds, or the weight of more than 20 fully loaded 777 airplanes, according to NASA.

The solution was sealing up a 120-foot section of the leaking pipe with layers of epoxy coating, using a Picote Solutions brush-coating system.

“The location of the pipe made it very difficult to fix it any other way,” Walker says.

The first step was cleaning the pipe, using a jetting nozzle made by NozzleTech and a combination sewer vacuum truck made by Aquatech. The Cloud 9 crews also used a Picote Maxi Miller drain machine to clean the line with a chain knocker.

“They get the inside of pipes looking like they’re brand-new,” Walker says. “Then we brush-coated the line with six coats of epoxy.”

Cloud 9 technicians also used a sandpaper attachment on the Maxi Miller to lightly sand the epoxy coats in between applications. In a proactive move, NASA also contracted Cloud 9 to coat another 120-foot-long section of pipe nearby, just as an insurance against possible future leaks. Cloud 9 used an inspection crawler camera built by Rausch Electronics USA to inspect the pipes before and after the coating process. After that, the repaired line was pressure-tested.

“Everything turned out great,” Walker says.

The job took about four days to complete. It could’ve gone even faster, but NASA only allows contractors to work 12-hour shifts, so the Cloud 9 crews could only do two epoxy coats per day. (Each coat must dry for about four hours before another coat can be applied.)

A Rausch push camera taped to the coating system cables allowed workers to watch the application process.

The successful project is a strong reflection of the company’s capabilities.

“People know that when they call us, we’ll come up with a solution,” Walker says. “And we’re not afraid to invest in new equipment, like the brush-coating system. We may not use it all the time, but when we need it to solve customers’ problems, it’s there.”

Read more about Cloud 9 Services in the November 2021 issue of Cleaner magazine.  


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