NASA’s Kennedy Space Center developed an electrically non-conductive ladder fall protection system for the Launch Complex (LC) 39B lightning towers. The towers include a 100-foot fiberglass mast at the top of the tower structure. The fiberglass masts insulate the metallic tower structure from the lightning strike protection system that is housed at the top of the fiberglass masts.

The non-conductive ladder fall arrest system.

All of the components contained within the fiberglass mast are required to be electrically non-conductive including bolts, screws, washers, ladders, and platforms. A 100-foot vertical ladder runs through the longitudinal center axis of the fiberglass mast, allowing for a service access at the top of the mast. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1910.28(b)(9) requires that fall protection on fixed ladders of 24 feet or taller be installed on or after November 19, 2018.

Current fall protection systems are comprised of electrically conductive components that require permanent installation. Due to the electrically non-conductive design criteria and function of the lightning towers, the LC 39B lightning towers necessitated the design of an electrically non-conductive ladder fall protection system that remains permanently installed in the lightning mast.

Traditional fall protection systems are made from electrically conductive metal, while this system is comprised entirely from non-conductive plastic components. Electrically non-conductive material was used to design the ladder fall protection system for the lightning tower fiberglass mast.

An existing ladder skate and rail system, comprised of a permanently installed fiberglass rail and removable skate, was adapted for this purpose by designing and fabricating non-conductive mounting hardware. This design has broad applications across industry, where an electrically non-conductive fall protection system is needed.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact Kurt Kessel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 321-867-8480 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.

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This article first appeared in the March, 2020 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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