Wazee Crane: Making BIG Things Happen


With a reputation for state-of-the-art (and bright yellow) overhead cranes, Wazee Crane—part of Timken Power Systems—stands alone in the industry with unmatched engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Customers who need help hoisting and handling large, expensive and scientifically important items often turn to them.

“The types of solutions we provide usually have multi-billion-dollar things on the other end of the hook,” says Steve Andrews, general manager – Wazee Crane. “We work on complicated, highly secured, sometimes secret projects. Where other companies shy away from those opportunities, they are absolutely in our wheelhouse.”

Steve shares these examples of Wazee’s bigger, not-so-secret projects.

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser® Spacecraft

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), an innovator in space systems and national security and defense technology, has invested approximately $1 billion in the development of a next-generation space utility vehicle. Designed as a multi-mission spacecraft to shuttle astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, NASA has approved it for cargo use starting as early as September 2021. When returning to Earth, Dream Chaser will offer gentle aircraft-type landings on a runway rather than the higher-impact drops to Earth that space capsules currently employ.

Wazee Crane’s strong relationship with Lockheed Martin, which built the composite body of Dream Chaser for SNC, led to the installation of a semi-custom Wazee overhead crane (pictured above, upper right) that lifts and maneuvers the structure during various phases of manufacturing and assembly. Keep reading to learn about the Lockheed Martin connection. Photo courtesy of SNC.

NASA estimates it will pay SNC between $2 billion to $2.5 billion for its service, which includes returning scientific samples from the space station back to NASA labs on Earth within hours instead of days. According to Steven Lindsey, SNC’s senior vice president of Space Exploration Systems, that is one of the greatest value aspects of Dream Chaser. “It’s all about the science for us,” he says. “It’s…providing essentially a science station while we’re up at the space station, and returning that science in a gentle, low-g environment so you don’t damage the research that’s been done in orbit.” (This video news report offers more detail.)

Manufacturing Dream Chaser requires an equal amount of finesse. To assist, Wazee Crane customized a pre-engineered crane to include features like a unique operator interface and variable speed control. These capabilities enable Dream Chaser to be moved so slowly during production that it is barely perceptible—ensuring that the spacecraft doesn’t rock or sway and preserving both the integrity of the spacecraft and worker safety. A special Wazee lifting frame also allows Dream Chaser to be hoisted in both the horizontal and vertical positions so it can easily be worked on from all angles.

Lockheed Martin Satellite Testing and Assembly

In the last 20 years, aerospace has become a key niche for Wazee due to the expensive, highly-technical nature of the applications. That includes the satellite segment, where manufacturers like Lockheed Martin need lifting mechanisms to help secure satellites in both assembly operations and testing environments that simulate space.

“Since 2003, we’ve partnered extensively with Lockheed Martin as equals to perfect the fixture solutions and series of controls to protect the huge investments being made in these satellites and other equipment,” he says. “Load sensing, laser positioning…it’s driven us to provide highly-technical solutions that people don’t always associate with cranes.”

A recognizable yellow Wazee crane is used to combine the System Module (brain) and Core Module (body) of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-R Satellite, which launched into orbit in 2016 to conduct atmospheric observations of Earth. The crane continues to aid in satellite assembly, research and development at Lockheed Martin’s clean room facility near Denver, Co. – just 20 minutes from Wazee Crane’s global headquarters. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

NREL Wind Turbine Research and Development
The U.S.’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is dedicated to research and development that advances renewable power, sustainable transportation, energy efficiency in manufacturing and buildings, and energy grid modernization. Scientists in NREL’s wind labs have a big job testing mega-sized wind nacelles to push the limits of what’s possible in terms of size, capacity and efficiency.

NREL’s wind group utilizes a Wazee overhead crane in its dynamometer lab, which performs research validation on wind turbine drivetrains up to 5 MW by replacing turbine rotors and blades with a powerful motor. NREL is also home to a test stand system with a gearbox designed and built by Philadelphia Gear, another Timken Power Systems brand. Photo courtesy of NREL and DOE.

“Our overhead crane and hoists are utilized in the lab to install and change out test nacelles weighing 150,000 lbs. or more,” Steve says. “Our involvement in these types of challenging applications is exciting because it allows us to continually develop our already exceptional capabilities. It also means we are contributing to science that can advance renewable energy and the sustainability of our planet. Our capabilities are rare; so is our impact.”