The Space Shuttle, often hailed as one of the most intricate machines ever constructed, faced numerous technological challenges during its development in the 1970s. The complexity extended to every component and system of the spaceplane, requiring extensive research and development. The example highlighted is the landing gear, where the Shuttle’s speed and mass demanded tires capable of withstanding forces surpassing those experienced by conventional airplanes. In a unique testing approach in the 1990s, NASA employed an RC tank, named the CR-990 Tire Assault Vehicle (TAV), to remotely defuse damaged tires by drilling holes and releasing pressure.
Constructed by NASA contractor David Carrott, the CR-990 TAV utilized a 1/16 scale Tamiya RC Tiger II tank as its base. The tank’s lower hull and locomotion components were derived from the toy, while metal fabrication produced upgraded deck and side skirts. Instead of a turret, the modified Tiger carried a DeWalt drill motor with a 3/8-inch bit for the tire-defusing operation. The TAV featured additional elements such as a camera and video transmitter, providing the operator with a first-person view during the defusing process.
Drilling into space shuttles
The article touches on the costs associated with the CR-990 TAV project, noting that while today’s DIY enthusiasts could potentially replicate a similar vehicle for a modest expense, the 1990s project incurred a cost of approximately $3,000. This expenditure is contrasted with the six-figure cost of a bomb disposal robot that NASA had been using before the development of the CR-990 TAV. Despite the expense, the TAV served a unique purpose in testing landing gear upgrades and remotely defusing damaged Shuttle tires in a controlled manner.
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