NASA Uses Wheelift Transporters for Spacecraft Assembly and Transport

NASA Industry


NASA uses Wheelift transporters to assemble and transport American’s next heavy-lift launch vehicle under the Space Launch System (SLS) program.


Provide NASA with a flexible handling system for indoor and outdoor use in its assembly and launch processes.


Wheelift provided a fleet of 8 transporters that can be used individually or in multi-mode to accomplish a variety of heavy lift/move operations.


  • Four transporters, 12’ x 34’ x 29”, each with twelve 20-ton modules
  • Four 100-ton in-plant self-propelled modular transporters (IP-SPMTs), 12’ x 24’ x 29”
  • LP powered with 480/277 Wye VAC 3-phase backup power
  • Precision within .02”
  • Equalized suspension for 4% grade capability
  • 8” of suspension travel for self-loading capability
  • Real-time load monitoring
  • Wheelift Transporters Operating in Multi-mode

    Because of the size of the loads NASA plans to transport, they will use Wheelift’s multi-mode capabilities to combine the power of multiple transporters into one.

  • NASA's Wheelift Transporters in Testing

    4 of NASA’s Wheelift transporters in final testing.

  • Wheelift Gave NASA Manufacturing Flexibility

    Wheelift provided NASA with a flexible transporter system that can be used for many applications today, as well as unforeseen future needs.

  • NASA's Space Launch System

    NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) program will carry crews into deep space.

About the Product.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is an advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new capability for science and human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. The Space Launch System will give the nation a safe, affordable, and sustainable means of reaching beyond our current limits and open new doors of discovery. SLS will be the most powerful rocket in history and is designed to be flexible and evolvable.

Wheelift’s technologies provide the multiple heavy load handling needs of NASA’s manufacturing facilities. Flexibility is a key feature providing a very low profile self-loading deck for carrying a wide variety of tooled fixtures and load configurations.

For the heaviest and/or largest loads, multiple transporters are positioned under the load and a communication link is established. One unit becomes the “master” and the adjacent units become the “slave,” allowing multiple transporters to function as a single transporter controlled via a single hand-held wireless joystick pendant.

NASA saw the following benefits:

  • Cost reductions in tooling, labor, logistics, transportation, and facilities
  • Enhanced facility security and safety
  • Flexibility for use with future, currently unknown payloads
  • Elimination of overhead cranes for assembly

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