Feedback
Science

Last Stop, Houston: Space Shuttle Carrier Ends Trip

Houston, the SCA has landed.

NASA's original Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jetliner that for three decades flew the space agency's orbiters coast to coast, completed a two-night road trip to Space Center Houston early Wednesday morning.

"Home sweet home," the center announced on Twitter.

The 8-mile (13 kilometers) move, which began at Houston's Ellington Field on Monday, was in preparation for the jet to become the centerpiece of a new $12 million, eight-story-tall attraction, which will display the SCA topped with the space shuttle "Independence," a high-fidelity, walk-through orbiter replica. The outdoor exhibit is scheduled to open in March 2015.

"Once we are done, you will be able to go into the shuttle, you'll be able to go into its mid-deck and the flight deck," Richard Allen, Space Center Houston president and CEO, said. "You'll also be able to go inside the 747, which we're going to put exhibits in about the history of the shuttle and 747. You'll also be able to go up in the cockpit of the 747."

Picking up where it left off Tuesday morning, the 1,000-foot-long (305 meter) convoy of self-propelled trailers and tractor trailers transported the SCA's fuselage and other dismantled parts from E. Commerce Street near Texas Highway 3 out onto NASA Parkway.

Although the second leg of the road trip was considerably shorter than the first, just two miles long (3.2 kilometers), the route presented its own set of challenges. The convoy had to move around a freeway ramp and a large overpass sign had to be lifted so the 63-foot-tall (19-meter) fuselage could proceed forward to Space Center Houston.

With its "big move" accomplished, work to reassemble the aircraft — reattaching its wings, stabilizers, and tail cone sections — was planned to begin in just a few days.

The SCA, known by its tail number N905NA or NASA 905, started off service as an American Airlines' passenger jet in 1970. It was acquired by NASA in 1974 and, after two years of being modified for the job, became the first of the space agency's two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

As the original SCA, NASA 905 flew as part of the space shuttle's 1977 approach and landing tests before ferrying the space-flown orbiters across the country throughout the decades that followed.

- Robert Z. Pearlman, Space.com

This a condensed version of an article that appeared on Space.com. Read the entire story here. Follow collectSPACE.com on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.