Generating power at the end of the earth
As part of the U.S. Antarctic Program's commitment to NASA's Long Duration Balloon (LDB) Project, a power unit was required to provide electric power for supporting the balloon instrument payload assembly and launch facilities. The LDB Project would take place 2 miles from the Antarctic science facility, McMurdo Station. Operated by the National Science Foundation, McMurdo Station is Antarctica's largest community. The facility is built on the bare volcanic rock of Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island, the farthest south solid ground that is accessible by ship.
The LDB Project buildings are built onto heavy-duty skis, which allow for easier transportation when the buildings are stored during the winter months. In late September the buildings used in the LDB Project are pulled one-by-one behind large tracked vehicles and set up for use. They remain in place for the Austral Summer season's scientific operations; the usual launch window is Dec. 10 to Jan. 10. In February the six LDB buildings are disconnected and pulled back to their winter storage to await redeployment the next season.
Syracuse Supply , Phoenix, N.Y., a division of Milton Caterpillar, was contracted to supply the required power unit for the LDB project. Designed by Enercon Engineering , the unit consists of an automatic control switchgear and a custom packaged power generation system including two 150-kW generator sets, rated at 0.8 picofarads, 208 vac, three-phase, 60 Hz, which generate 520 full load amperage each. The dual generator set's exhaust system also has waste heat exchangers that are connected to the mechanical building. The heat exchangers provide hot fluid to the rest of the complex (Figure 1).
The power generation system needed to be able to survive the unique environment of Antarctica, which experiences temperature extremes from 55 F to -90 F, along with high winds and heavy snows.
The power generation system is packaged in a modified 40-ft long, 8-ft wide, ISO Cold Pac shipping container. Modified with openings for air intake and discharge, the container's floor was filled with polyurethane foam and then covered by a 16-gauge sheet of corten steel to prevent saturation of the foam. The walls, doors, and ceiling of the container were covered with 4 in. of rigid insulation material, which was covered by a minimum of 1/16-in. thick Fiberglass, hammer tone finish, stain-resistant sheets over 3/8-in. composite plywood that formed thermal resistive walls that achieved a R-20 value (Figure 2). Remote-mounted radiators for each of the engines are in their own temperature-controlled compartment, and a modulating air-handling system was installed to provide the required combustion air and maintain the interior operating environment.
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