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NASA Time-Lapse Space Shuttle Mating To Boeing 747

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Uploaded on Sep 24, 2011

The process of preparing the space shuttle for mating to a space shuttle carrier takes approximately one week. This video shows a time-lapse of what goes on during the preparation.

The SCAs are used to ferry space shuttles from landing sites back to the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, and to and from other locations too distant for the orbiters to be delivered by ground transport. The orbiters are placed on top of the SCAs by Mate-Demate Devices, large gantry-like structures that hoist the orbiters off the ground for post-flight servicing, and then mate them with the SCAs for ferry flights.

The aircraft was extensively modified by Boeing in 1976. Its cabin was stripped, mounting struts added, and the fuselage strengthened; vertical stabilizers were added to the tail to aid stability when the Orbiter was being carried. The avionics and engines were also upgraded, and an escape tunnel system similar to that used on Boeing's first 747 test flights was added. The flight crew escape tunnel system was later removed following the completion of the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) due to concerns over possible engine ingestion of an escaping crew member.

Flying with the additional drag and weight of the Orbiter imposes significant fuel and altitude penalties. The range is reduced to 1,000 nautical miles (1,850 km), compared to an unladen range of 5500 nautical miles (10,100 km), requiring an SCA to stop several times to refuel on a transcontinental flight. The SCA has an altitude ceiling of 15,000 feet and a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.6 with the orbiter attached. A crew of 170 takes a week to prepare the shuttle and SCA for flight.

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