is in the design,” said Luigi Terzuolo,
technical director of Cometto. “We
design all parts of these machines in-house — including the software used
to steer our remote-controlled units. We
know our products inside and out, so
we can customize them as requested.”
Cometto began its relationship
with ESA in 1990, when the company delivered the AIT200 hauler
to move rocket boosters around the
With the AIT200 showing its age,
Cometto delivered the AIT250 Fardier
to Kourou earlier this year where it
was put to work moving the bottom
two segments of the rocket boosters.
Hydraulically driven, the AIT250 can
move backward and forward or side
to side — making an otherwise long
and unwieldy machine surprisingly
maneuverable. It measures 55 ft. long
and 18 ft. wide.
Each rocket booster segment
weighs 165 tons, measures 49 ft. long
and contains 118 tons of solid rocket
propellant to launch the Ariane 5 main
stage spacecraft. The fuel doesn’t
last long; the launch vehicle burns
through the propellant in less than
2 1/2 minutes as it shoots into space
at more than a mile a second.
The cargo is enormous, and the
working conditions in Kourou can
be treacherous. Situated along the
Atlantic Coast in a dense swathe of
rainforest, the area is hot and humid,
and the distinct possibility of a light-
ning strike makes hauling the fuel-
filled segments dangerous business.
Cometto selected two 7 L Volvo
Penta TAD765VE diesel engines rated
315 hp each. The company installed
two engines to maximize uptime; if one
engine experiences a problem, the
machine can continue working, albeit
at a lower speed.
“We’ve used Volvo Penta engines
since 1995, so we already had a strong
relationship with the company when
we chose their engines for the AIT250,”
Terzuolo said. “At Volvo Penta we
have only one person dedicated to
working with us on both sales and
engineering, which means that we can
expect a quick response time — we
don’t get bogged down in a long chain
of communication. Volvo Penta is
more customer-focused than product-
focused, and we appreciate the close
collaboration we enjoy with them.
“But even though good service and
a customer focus are highly important
to us, they aren’t enough on their
own. Fortunately the engines Volvo
Penta offers also happen to suit our
requirements perfectly, providing us
the power, reliability and efficiency
we need.” dp
One of two Volvo Penta TAD765VE engines can be seen in the Cometto AIT250 hauler.
The AIT250’s predecessor, the AIT200, is
shown on site in Kourou, where it hauls
rocket boosters containing solid propellant.
A heavy hauler in its own right, the Ariane 5 launch vehicle lifts off at the Kourou spaceport.