Do you miss the Space Shuttle and those powerful launches? I have to admit that I do. They did their job well. I hope the Space Launch System replacement will give us the safety and effectiveness our astronauts and space program deserve.
This post is about the retirement processing for the shuttle fleet. There are a lot of pictures, all compliments of NASA, and not much text. Enjoy.
It looks like it had been involved in some horrible accident. Space Shuttle Endeavor shown as it was moved between buildings at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The move was part of the process each shuttle underwent to get them ready for their new homes at four locations around the country. The sight of the draped and duct taped shuttle with major parts missing is rather shocking.
The engineering marvels finished their careers. At their new homes, they might still inspire more young people to consider their future in the exploration of space. They did that while on active duty. I wish them a long and successful retirement.
Below are more pictures highlighting the steps in the process of making the shuttles safe for public viewing at their new homes. You can find a thorough discussion of details about this transition and retirement process for each shuttle at Spaceflight101.
Why Remove Some of the Shuttle Components?
NASA explains that some of the hardware will have possible future use. The hardware also needs to undergo technical and engineering studies. The main focus of the transition and retirement processing was to make the shuttles safe for the public to be near. The power units, sanitation systems, communications equipment, cockpit controls, to name just a few, needed to be removed. This post focuses on only the engines, reaction control thruster systems, and aerodynamic tail cone attachment.
Shuttle Main Engines
The shuttles did not take their main engines with them. Instead, they were fitted with mock-up nozzles that look like the real engines. The real engines will be part of the new Space Launch System heavy lift vehicle.
Orbital and Reaction Control System Thrusters
Each shuttle had two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pods at the rear and a Forward Reaction Control System (FRCS) at the nose. They were used for orbit adjustments and maneuvers while in space. They operated with a hypergolic propellant which is very toxic. The thrusters and all parts and any seals that had contact with this chemical were removed. The outer shell covering and mock-up thruster parts were re-installed so it looked normal to the public.
Aerodynamic Tail Cone for Flight
Three of the shuttles needed to be flown to their new homes on the back of another plane the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Each weighed 87 tons. Mating of the shuttle to the carrier aircraft was a delicate task performed by about 45 workers. To ensure as much aerodynamic stability as possible, a special tail cone section was installed on the rear of each shuttle for the flight to their new homes.
Clearly, a lot of work was needed to get these vehicles ready for their retirement homes. Maybe you will have an opportunity in the future to get a close view of one of the historic shuttles. I believe you will be impressed. Thanks for visiting.