MSE wall built for NASA launch pad site

July 31, 2020

Wallops Flight Facility is one of NASA’s extraordinary sites for suborbital and orbital launches. Its aircraft research has enabled NASA and their partners to make incredible advances in science and technology, especially in directing unmanned aerial vehicles. Wallops’ scientific endeavors in both air and earth research open new frontiers of discovery every day. From the ground, The Reinforced Earth Company (RECo) now plays a small role in the process of launching rockets into space.

In 2011, RECo contributed to the safety and success of Wallops Flight Facility by supplying the design and materials for a Reinforced Earth MSE ramp and abutment leading to a launch pad site. While a relatively small project, RECo faced several design challenges including possible inundation of seawater, extreme live loading, and extreme QA/QC by NASA and the revered Owners. The project completes construction of what is known as Pad 0-A. The bridge supported by the MSE wall has already served the inaugural transport of Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares Rocket from its nearby hangar to the launch pad site. Since then, several other rockets have been transported over the ramp on their way to the launch pad.

RECo’s engineers had to meet stringent design requirements. A low-height wall (10 ft) with high imposed loads (1,500 psf, 6x a typical roadway design), as well as a seawater environment, required the use of specially fabricated soil reinforcements.

The wall design incorporated thicker than normal galvanized soil reinforcing strips and tie strips. The solution: 50-mm x 6-mm HA Strip reinforcement (versus the typical 50-mm x 4-mm), connected by 7-gage tie strips (versus the typical 10-gage), all designed for a 20-year service life in the seawater environment. The thicker reinforcing strips provided the required tensile resistance to counteract the large loading conditions.

RECo’s reliable and resourceful design facilitates the transportation of large payloads for a prolonged period, even with special design and loading conditions.

Editor's Note: Scranton Gillette Communications and the SGC Infrastructure Group are not liable for the accuracy, efficacy and validity of the claims made in this piece. The views expressed in this content do not reflect the position of the Roads & Bridges' Editorial Team.