Shuttle Carrier Aircraft
Articles Blog

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

August 26, 2019

NARRATOR: It has been called the
world’s greatest piggyback ride: a space shuttle, atop a
Boeing 747 jet aircraft. But this is no ordinary 747, this is the Shuttle
Carrier Aircraft…the SCA. This specially modified jumbo
jet was not only a taxi service for the shuttle, but also
helped in the development of the shuttle itself. In 30 years of flying,
the majestic image of a spacecraft joined to
the SCA, became a symbol of American invention
and ingenuity. MUSIC NARRATOR: You
searched the sky… you heard the roar of the
engines getting closer… then someone would
shout…”there it is.” The SCA. In the 30 year
history of the space shuttle, if you were one of millions
of people who saw the SCA fly over your town, you
understood the excitement it could generate. (Crowd cheering at
SCA) Moultrie- “It was always a pleasure
to have the locals come out; to have the kids be able to
look up and see a shuttle on top of the airplane. That’s certainly a
huge memory of mine. When I was a teenager,
when I lived in Huntsville, Alabama where I was raised…and at the time I was a Von Braun
Civic Center in Huntsville and looking up and
seeing…THIS airplane. And who would have thought
I would have ever have flown this airplane. How ironic that I would
end up being a guy who flew the airplane and being
lucky enough to be the last guy to fly this vehicle for a
30 year shuttle program.” NARRATOR: The unique image of
two sleek vehicles attached in a seemingly impossible
configuration, evokes feelings of progress, elegance,
and achievement. NARRATOR: To understand how the
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft came to be, you must understand
the shuttle itself. It was America’s first
reusable spacecraft. At the end of a space mission, the shuttle would reenter
Earth’s atmosphere, then it would glide
down to a runway at the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. There engineers would get to work refitting the
spacecraft for another mission. But NASA had other
landing sites, such as Edwards Air
Force Base in California. If the shuttle landed
here…it would need a way back to its launch site in Florida. For flying the skies on Earth, NASA engineers first thought
perhaps the shuttle could have its own jet engines. But these proved to be
too heavy, too complex and too costly to develop. NASA would have to find another
way to transport the shuttle. Enter John Kiker, an engineer at the NASA Johnson Space
Center in Houston, Texas. Kiker: “I made a little sketch
of this and put it on my desk, and then after several weeks
I called up Boeing one day and told ’em not to laugh but I
wanted to show ’em something.” (Model airplane buzzing)
NARRATOR: Using model airplanes, Kiker and his team
proved the concept of transporting the shuttle on
the back of a 747 jumbo jet. In addition, the tests showed
the shuttle could be air launched off the
back of the plane. The idea was accepted and
the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft was born. The SCA first flew the shuttle in what was called the
Approach and Landing Tests. The shuttle Enterprise was
lifted on the back of the SCA to an altitude of about
twenty-seven thousand feet…and air launched. The aerodynamic tests
were crucial in proving the shuttle’s ability
to glide down to a landing, and helped engineers
refine the shuttle design. Just as significant, the
imagery of the SCA and shuttle in action was the public’s first
glimpse of an amazing new era of spaceflight that was
just on the horizon. The shuttle became a renowned
and iconic space vehicle; the SCA allowed those of
us on the Earth to share that excitement when it
served role as a shuttle taxi. Mission by mission, SCA crews
eagerly listened for word if the shuttle would have to land somewhere
other than Florida… Moultrie: ” We start
getting excited when we hear the
weather’s bad in Florida. Those few of us that
fly this airplane LIKE bad weather in
Florida (laughs). We get a chance to do our jobs. So…as soon as we know
the shuttle is en route to California, that’s when
we start getting involved with the shuttle ferry team. Moultrie: “Basically
the shuttles are brought into the mate/de-mate facility
and they’re hoisted up, and the Shuttle Carrier
Aircraft, the 747 is moved under the shuttle and then
the attachments are made.” NARRATOR: The shuttle and
its cargo can weigh anywhere from one-hundred-sixty thousand, to two-hundred-twenty
thousand pounds. To lift and fly with that
much weight on its back, the SCA had some
special modifications that make it unlike
any other jetliner. Most noticeable were vertical
fins mounted on the tail. The shuttle caused
air turbulence and the fins brought back
stability to the flight. Other than the fins, it might
appear this was an ordinary jumbo jet. But as SCA Flight Engineer
Henry Taylor can tell you, there were some very
important differences between a regular 747 and
a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Henry Taylor: ” We’re
here inside the main cabin of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. As you can see, there’s no
insulation, no paneling, all the lavatories and
galleys have been removed to save weight. Above me is one of the
two bulkheads…this one and this one…that are
used to provide support for the orbiter attach points.” Taylor (continued):
“The attach points for the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft
are in the same location that the orbiters attach to
the external tank for launch. The aft section of the
airplane, there’s two struts with what we call balls…and
those go up inside the orbiter. In the front, there’s a small
little tripod adapter fitting that mounts to the
structure that’s been added to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Somebody made a kind of
joke, although it’s relevant. By the aft attach points it
says, “attach orbiter here, note: black side
down,” which of course, the black for the
tiles…it’s kind’ve a joke to make sure somebody doesn’t
put it on upside down.” NARRATOR: Although the plane
itself had all the necessary technical requirements,
for a safe flight, the highly skilled crew
monitored the systems carefully, and experienced a
different type of ride… Moultrie: “From a pilot’s stand
point, there’s a long wait, when the power is pushed
up…you don’t really realize the time that you’re going to be on the runway before rotating
the airplane into the air. There’s a big wait. That was the big thing
impressed upon me, I think, on my first shuttle ferry.” NARRATOR: As the
shuttle program ended, the SCA had one final mission:
deliver the shuttles Enterprise, Discovery and Endeavour to
their respective museums. Across the United
States, for one last time, people got to see the
unique vision of spacecraft and aircraft joined in flight. And with that, the SCA
with a shuttle was not seen in the sky again, but it will
always remind us of a bold age of determination and invention. Taylor: “When the orbiter
is on top of the SCA, it creates so much interest because it is such
a unique sight. People come out by the thousands to see us wherever we
stop…to come see this very unique combination.” Taylor: “People appreciate
and people respond to things like that…it’s American
ingenuity and American pride.” MUSIC / Jet sounds

Only registered users can comment.

  1. There will be a time when India will be the first one to do anything, not 3rd or 4th. And that time is not so far.

  2. Yeah the model shuttle made out of fibre glass. As if a 747 could take the weight of a space shuttle and those heavy booster rocket engines.. I mean c mon man as if

  3. This looks very kool! However you all deceive the whole world with your moon landings Lies! Lying lips are an abomination to Yah! Repent!

  4. Come see this but don’t laugh
    How many of us have had ideas but were too chicken to utter the words out of our mouths?

  5. Why didn’t they just put it on the back of a semi truck to transport it? Seems like it would have been much cheaper

  6. I have a picture of me stood in front of 905 with Enterprise on her back lifting off at kennedy Space center. I'm positive it was in 1977. I have a picture taken on the same day of me stood in front of the display Saturn V. In the background there is no Shuttle assembly tower, so it must have been 1977.Did enterprise and 905 visit KSC in 1977? If so, what date?

  7. Those were the days when the US made rapid advances in conquering the space, put a man on moon, discovered new galaxies and wonders of our ocean depth, now the US is spending all its energy and resources for regime change in foreign countries and it will for sure roll backwards and watch with dismay other nations like China will overtake the US swiftly leaving America behind pinned down on how to put more sanctions on Iran.

  8. I live in houston..I got to go see the SCA and the space shuttle really a beautiful sight..I highly recommend visiting the Johnson space center

  9. This stuff never gets old, would love to see SCA in the air with a shuttle again, but…..well, they'll have something newer and better someday….NASA ROCKS! LOL and some of the comments on here are hilarious.

  10. Ever notice the jet engines under the hump? Sometimes when it flies and glides, there are openings on the roof at the base of the rudder, black holes used for air intake to run the jet engine under the hump. You can see air intakes open as well during the glide test with the tailpiece mounted, jets blasted to the side of the cone where you can see the exhaust pipe. Every landing has this part open and immediately after it lands, they show the holes covered up and painted white, even in this video. It's a shell game of paint booths, and different vehicles.

  11. I was in 6th grade when this happened and I got picked up early on the way home when we were walking it passed by us. I just graduated from high school but I’ll always remember that day

  12. the first thing you notice is no engines on shuttle…were the engines removed? and when upright the shuttle seems massive….far larger than a hopped-up 747….so what was the weight of shuttle without the engines? far more than the pee-wee hopped-up 747 that was suppose to carry this large toy!!!!

  13. The original was silver, not white. I foind an original Model of the 747 and Shuttle. I built that model in 1977. Now I have a vintage original never assembled model. It was found in a home when it was sold. I was sick that christmas when I got it. We never opened presents till the following day.

  14. Beautiful sight it is which reminds us that no more shuttle or concord anymore but new generation of engineers giving us MAX planes
    sad to see this decline

  15. The SCA we remember that day in coming back home in Los Angeles California make us proud to be beautiful lovely time NASA finally flying with the fight jets around California sounds great 👍 we was take pictures and filming cameras on and the ground and waiting to see it in Downtown Los Angeles I was have eyes 👀 surgery in 2012 in October it’s passed bye 👋 say we are back home now 🤗👨🏻‍🔧👩🏻‍🔧👨🏼‍🔧👩🏼‍🔧👨🏽‍🔧👩🏽‍🔧👩🏻‍💼👨🏻‍💻👩🏻‍🏫👨🏻‍🏫👩🏼‍🚀👨🏻‍🚀👩🏼‍🚀👨🏻‍🚀👩🏼‍🚀👩🏻‍✈️👨🏽‍✈️👨🏻‍⚕️👩🏻‍⚕️ that day for everyone else because of them we have to Keeping it in Los Angeles California

  16. Esas navez dan vergüenza ya deberían existir modelos buenos y de formas más espectaculares siguen con las mismas chatarras y todas en formas d e misiles

  17. So how much does it weight? How that plane can take off with that in the back .. if u do the math not possible to take off with all that weight..

  18. it is a plastic model, as they can't go to space. they dump it in the ocean and there is one with engine that land pretending coming back from space

  19. For it's time it was definitely cutting edge. For those who argue for it's return, consider the fact that it's OLD technology. It served it's purpose well. Look what's being built now. Better, more powerful, and more EFFICIENT space vehicles that will allow us to go further, to the long
    envisioned journey to Mars. Nostalgia will not get us there. The shuttle, and the astronauts who died will have played their part in our landing people on that planet. ✌🏻🇺🇸

  20. An airplane carrying another airplane this is bullshit! If it is space ship then why does the so called "nasa's scientists" not letting it fly?! The earth is flat n they reached the moon in walt disney studios.. earth doesn't spin but the moon n sun does nasa's scumbag the people who beleived you is as retarded as u assholes

  21. Colossal!!! In Russia was An-224 "Mрия", carried "Buran" . Viva engineers!!!!! 🇷🇺🇺🇸😊

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *