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Photo Feature: Discovery Mated To Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, Ready For Smithsonian Flight

Space shuttle Discovery ready to be mated to NASA's modified 747 shuttle carrier aircraft earlier today.  Weather permitting, Discovery will be flown from Kennedy Space Center to Dulles International Airport tuesday morning to go on permanent public display as a museum piece at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  Photo Credit: Mike Killian

Space shuttle Discovery ready to be mated to NASA's modified 747 shuttle carrier aircraft earlier today. Weather permitting, Discovery will be flown from Kennedy Space Center to Dulles International Airport Tuesday morning to go on permanent public display as a museum piece at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Photo Credit: Mike Killian

After wind delayed yesterday’s lift operations to place Discovery atop a modified NASA 747 jumbo jet, technicians today completed their task mounting the orbiter to her shuttle carrier aircraft in preparation for Discovery’s scheduled flight to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Tuesday morning.

The weather today cooperated beautifully, with lots of sun and light winds dominating the scene and allowing shuttle workers to continue readying the 2 vehicles for their historic upcoming flight.  Lift operations began around 5am, with the first motion of Discovery’s lift taking place as the first light of sun began to stretch across the horizon.  After retracting Discovery’s landing gear the lift took roughly 40 minutes to complete, raising the 167,000 pound orbiter to 60 feet and allowing the 747 to carefully position itself underneath the shuttle.

Discovery begins to lift shortly after 5am EDT Sunday.  Photo Credit: Mike Killian

Discovery begins to lift shortly after 5am EDT Sunday. Photo Credit: Mike Killian

After lowering Discovery to within an arm’s reach of the shuttle carrier aircraft, technicians began the task of attaching the orbiter, what NASA calls a ‘soft mate’.  Workers then continued to secure the two vehicles firmly together, ‘hard-mating’ the SCA/shuttle vehicle to accept the aerodynamic forces they will encounter on Tuesday’s flight.

With the vehicles now mated and flight ready, NASA plans on backing the shuttle carrier aircraft out on the shuttle landing facility tarmac Monday morning to allow workers, media, and members of the public visiting Kennedy Space Center a chance to say goodbye to Discovery up close and personal.  Members from Discovery’s first and final astronaut crews will be on hand for interviews with the media as well.

The 167,000 pound shuttle Discovery lifted 60 feet above the ground as the sun rises over Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility Sunday morning.  Photo Credit: Mike Killian

The 167,000 pound shuttle Discovery lifted 60 feet above the ground as the sun rises over Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility Sunday morning. Photo Credit: Mike Killian

Weather permitting, the 747 / space shuttle aircraft will take off at first light Tuesday morning shortly after 7am.  Weather forecasts currently call for light winds out of the south east, which would allow for the SCA to take off southbound.  NASA plans on flying the aircraft up and down Florida’s Space Coast for folks in Brevard County to say good bye to the spacecraft they watched launch astronauts to the stars on 39 missions over a span of nearly 28 years.  Discovery will fly over Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex, then south over Brevard County to Patrick Air Force Base.  After reaching Patrick, the aircraft will head back north along the beach, making one last pass up the coast before departing Florida for good and cruising towards D.C. at an altitude of 15,000 feet, arriving at Dulles International Airport several hours later.

Discovery will be put on permanent public display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

All Photos Credit: Mike Killian

 

Discovery begins her 60 foot lift shortly after 5am EDT Sunday morning.

Discovery begins her 60 foot lift shortly after 5am EDT Sunday morning.

With Discovery having completed being lifted 60 feet in the air, members of te media look on as NASA begins to pull their 747 shuttle carrier aircraft up to the mate / demate device, or MDM, to mate Discovery to the aircraft which will fly her to Dulles International Airport Tuesday morning.

With Discovery having completed being lifted 60 feet in the air, members of te media look on as NASA begins to pull their 747 shuttle carrier aircraft up to the mate / demate device, or MDM, to mate Discovery to the aircraft which will fly her to Dulles International Airport Tuesday morning.

Discovery waits 60 feet in the air for the 747 SCA to park underneath her.

Discovery waits 60 feet in the air for the 747 SCA to park underneath her.

NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device where shuttle Discovery waits.

NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device where shuttle Discovery waits.

NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device where shuttle Discovery waits.

NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device where shuttle Discovery waits.

Members of the press look on as NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device where shuttle Discovery waits.

Members of the press look on as NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device where shuttle Discovery waits.

NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device underneath shuttle Discovery.

NASA's 747 SCA pulls up the the mate / demate device underneath shuttle Discovery.

The SCA, parked and ready for Discovery to be mounted atop the aircraft's backside for Tuesday's flight.

The SCA, parked and ready for Discovery to be mounted atop the aircraft's backside for Tuesday's flight.

Members of the press look on as the 747 SCA parks underneath Discovery.

Members of the press look on as the 747 SCA parks underneath Discovery.

Discovery begins being lowered for mating to NASA's 747 SCA.

Discovery begins being lowered for mating to NASA's 747 SCA.

Discovery being lowered for mating to NASA's 747 SCA.

Discovery being lowered for mating to NASA's 747 SCA.

Technicians work to precisely align the hardware used to mate Discovery to the 747.

Technicians work to precisely align the hardware used to mate Discovery to the 747.

 

4 comments to Photo Feature: Discovery Mated To Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, Ready For Smithsonian Flight

  • Mary Kanian

    SOOO IMPRESSIVE!!!

  • BoB Marrinan

    This would be impressive if it was happening at Edwards AFB, now it’s just very sad that the greatest nation on earth, can not get it’s own people into space. Very sad indeed!

  • The sad thing is that we could still be flying either the Shuttle or a Shuttle C to maintain ISS. The Obama Administration had the opportunity, but it punted to Augustine who predictably decided to go with the commercial option. You don’t have to take that from me, though. Take it from someone who is a senior staffer on the Senate CSJ Committee, as commented on NASA Spaceflight by 51D Mascot.

    This is from the 2008 NASA Authorization Act. It specifically preserved the option for continuing shuttle beyond 2010 for the incoming Administration–which was of course unknown when the legislation was drafted and even when enacted on October 15, 2008. Subsequent to the election, this provision was very clearly pointed out to the Obama Transition Team for NASA (headed by Lori Garver) and they clearly understood they had the option to continue–and that the Congress would likely support that move, given its history, since 2005, of concern about “The Gap,” especially with respect to the ability to support and sustain ISS. They “punted” that decision to the overall HSF Review Committee (Augustine), who, in the end provided a series of options among which was continuation of Shuttle to 2015, by which time it was expected that Ares 1 would be flying. The FY 2011 Budget Request the following year demonstrated THIS Administration’s DECISION:

    Section 611

    (d) TERMINATION OR SUSPENSION OF ACTIVITIES THAT WOULD PRECLUDE CONTINUED FLIGHT OF SPACE SHUTTLE PRIOR TO REVIEW BY THE INCOMING 2009 PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION.—
    (1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator shall terminate or suspend any activity of the Agency that, if continued between the date of enactment of this Act and April 30, 2009, would preclude the continued safe and effective flight of the Space Shuttle after fiscal year 2010 if the President inaugurated on January 20, 2009, were to make a determination to delay the Space Shuttle’s scheduled retirement.
    (2) REPORT ON IMPACT OF COMPLIANCE.—Within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator
    shall provide a report to the Congress describing the expected budgetary and programmatic impacts from compliance with paragraph (1). The report shall include—
    (A) a summary of the actions taken to ensure the option to continue space shuttle flights beyond the end
    of fiscal year 2010 is not precluded before April 30, 2009;
    (B) an estimate of additional costs incurred by each specific action identified in the summary provided under
    subparagraph (A);
    (C) a description of the proposed plan for allocating those costs among anticipated fiscal year 2009 appropriations
    or existing budget authority;
    (D) a description of any programmatic impacts within the Space Operations Mission Directorate that would result
    from reallocations of funds to meet the requirements of paragraph (1);
    (E) a description of any additional authority needed to enable compliance with the requirements of paragraph
    (1); and
    (F) a description of any potential disruption to the timely progress of development milestones in the preparation
    of infrastructure or work-force requirements for shuttle follow-on launch systems.

    122 STAT. 4798 PUBLIC LAW 110–422—OCT. 15, 2008

    Added Note: Since the above provision expired at the end of April 2009, NASA, knowing of the HSF Review, elected to take only non-irreversible termination activities pending the outcome of that review, and pending the Administration’s formal response to that review as part of the FY 2011 Budget Request. Thus, the Bush-initiated termination “decision” could have been reversed as late as the Spring (and actually into the summer) of 2010. As added “insurance” for that option, the 2010 Act included language “protecting” ET-94 to enable the shuttle flow to ramp back up. Senator Hutchison also introduced a bill (S. 3068), the ‘‘Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act of 2010″, which provided for a recertification process for Shuttle, authorized funding for two flights per year for FY 2010, 2011 and 2012, and required a joint determination by the President and the Congress regarding a decision to terminate the shuttle. Rather than pursuing passage of that bill, it became the starting point on the Republican side of negotiations regarding the content of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, and the removal of those shuttle provisions became part of the “Compromise” that produced the 2010 Act.

  • Sam and Valerie Miller

    Thanks, Dawn, for always sharing our Space Program/Shuttles with us. Going to miss all the excitment and hate that our Government gave up so easily. We were number 1 and now, we have to worry about Russia and China and North Korea and who knows what other country (that has kept quiet) will spring up and then you will see how fast our government starts to move. JFK is turning in his grave.

    Shame on our USA government.