Towing, Flying and Hauling the Space Shuttle Oct. 12, 2012 -- Space Shuttle Endeavour will spend the rest of its days as a museum exhibit at the California Science Center (CSC) in Los Angeles. But after landing at Los Angeles International Airport on Sept. 20, its final mission has just commenced -- a two day haul through LA streets. Multi-axle, a computer controlled wheeled crawler called the Over Land Transporter (OLT) will carry the shuttle for most of the journey. However, the last 400 meters of Endeavour's 12 mile (19 kilometers) half-marathon will be facilitated by a Toyota Tundra pickup truck. The event finale is planned for Saturday evening with the Tundra CrewMax using its powerful Toyota 5.7L V8 engine -- delivering 381 horsepower -- pulling the shuttle over the finish line. Although this is a fantastic marketing opportunity for Toyota, the event will also be a chance to teach the physics of leverage (when the Tundra itself becomes an exhibit at the CSC) and create a funding opportunity for science. For more, check out the Tundra Endeavour website. But how was the shuttle hauled, flown, dragged and retrieved when the fleet was in operation over the last 30 years? Browse this small selection of shuttle support vehicles to find out.
The Crawler-Transporter Originally built to carry the massive Saturn V rockets to the launch pad during the Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs, the crawler-transporter was refitted to carry fully-laden Space Shuttles from 1981 to 2011. An experimental Ares I rocket from the canceled Constellation Program was also transported before launch in 2008. Two of these 2,721 ton (6 million pounds) vehicles were built. The crawler-transporters would transfer the shuttle (plus external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters) from NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. They are powered by two 2,750 horsepower engines with two 1,065 horsepower engines for jacking, steering, lighting and ventilation. They remain the largest self-powered vehicles in the world.
ANALYSIS: NASA Hauls Shuttle to Launch Pad
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft To transport the shuttle over large distances -- from back-up landing strips (i.e. Edwards Air Force Base in Calif.) to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., NASA converted two Boeing 747s into Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Since the retirement of the program, the aircraft have become very prominent, piggybacking the shuttles to their retirement homes around the country. Out of interest, the engines of a fully-laden 747 will deliver around 120,000 horsepower of thrust during take-off.
BIG PIC: Shuttles on the Move
Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ships Although technically not a shuttle transportation vehicle, NASA's two Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) Retrieval Ships have played a key role in the Shuttle Program, fulfilling the need to retrieve and reuse the two spent SRBs that were dropped into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after each shuttle launch. Specifically constructed for the task of SRB retrieval, both ships are powered by two main engines, delivering a total of 2,900 horsepower.
VIDEO: Meet NASA's Shuttle Rocket Retrieval Ships
The Over Land Transporter Before the Tundra takes over, completing the last 400 meters of the shuttle's roll through LA, four self-propelled, multi-axle vehicles will carry Endeavour's load. The Over Land Transporter (OLT) seen here is controled by an operator (carrying a radio-controlled joystick) walking along with the slow-moving assembly. The OLT can make the shuttle spin on the spot or even move sideways to avoid obstacles and navigate streets. For news, updates and photographs of this momentous occasion, keep an eye on Discovery News through the weekend.
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