NASA’s Tug Boats Push On

NASA’s PB-1 & PB-2 push barges sit alongside the massive space shuttle main fuel tank barge in NASA’s turn basin. Photo Credit: Blue Sawtooth Studio / Julian Leek

Another part of space history has left NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The two nineteen-foot push barges, PB-1 & PB-2, that have been used for three decades to maneuver the shuttle external fuel tank barge in and around the KSC turn basin, have been sold to a private company. These little craft were an iconic fixture during the shuttle era and they, like their hefty charges, are fading into history.


Shortly after the shuttle main fuel tank barge left KSC on its final voyage, both barges were lifted out of the water and left to wait the final decision on their fate. Photo Credit: Blue Sawtooth Studio / Julian Leek

Both barges have been acquired by a Cocoa, Fla.-based company, Beyel Crane & Rigging, through the General Service Administration’s (GSA) bid process.

“They are part of history and we are proud to recycle them into our fleet,” said Beyel spokesman Steve Beyel.

Under consideration is their renaming, possibly Columbia & Challenger have been discussed but no final decision has been made according to Beyel. Built in the early 1990s, each has a small GM 671 diesel engine with Z-drive propulsion system.

To protect marine life each barge is equipped with a propeller cage.
Photo Credit: Blue Sawtooth Studio / Julian Leek

Other equipment that will leave with these craft include a small solar panel to keep the batteries charged and propeller cage to protect marine life when working in shallow water, and the cabs can be removed to make overland truck transportation possible when needed.

Due to their small size, a captain’s license is not required to operate them, as with larger ships. The barges were picked up from their land storage area next to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and placed back into the water by crane, from this point they were moved over to Beyel’s working yard at Merritt Island, Fla. After a few upgrades and repainting to match Beyel’s marine fleet, the push barges will be put back into service around Florida’s Space Coast.

Tug boat Brittany Beyel picks up PB-1 & PB-2 from the turning basin at KSC.
Image Credit: Beyel Crane & Rigging


  1. VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE!!! Love the cage pic detail!! That’s what makes these articles so INTERESTING! THANKS!

  2. We would like to get a little feed back in reference naming the (2) little Tug Boats that we purchased from GSA, last week. We were thinking about naming one the Colombia and the other the Challenger. Would like to get a little feed back. Would love to hear from as many as possible. Positive or negative, please let us know your feelings. Steve Beyel V/P of Beyel Brothers Crane and Rigging

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