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SpaceVidcast Daily 09.09.16

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Each space shuttle is essentially a giant glider. When it comes back to Earth, there are no engines propelling it. The vehicle is just gliding back making huge turns to try and dissipate the enormous energy it's built up. Sometimes weather prevents the orbiter from landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and forces NASA to land in California. So how do they then get the space shuttle, one of the most complex space ships ever made, from California back to Florida? Well NASA has two pimped out, or rather un-pimped Boeing 747s that they use to ferry the shuttle across the country. These aircraft are known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft or SCA and are pretty much identical other than the windows. At least one of these 747s usually resides at Edwards Air Force Base just waiting for the wayward shuttle to require its services. There are a few chairs and no typical internal furnishings, although they do sometimes have cabin service serving FritosĀ® and soda. They have essentially been stripped, reinforced, and vertically stabilized. The first step in getting the orbiter home is to add an aerodynamic tailcone to the orbiter. This is to reduce drag and help protect the space shuttle's main engines or SSMEs. Next, we simply lift the $1.7 billion space shuttle up, slide our SCA under and mate the two together. Easy! Just, you know, lift and attach! There are convenient signs that show where to attach the orbiter and which side should be down. You can never be too careful. Now the orbiter's attached and we're ready to go! Unfortunately the added weight and drag of the shuttle imposes some minor penalties in fuel efficiency. Whereas an empty 747 can go about 5,500 nautical miles nonstop, the SCA can only go about 1,000 nautical miles or so, which unfortunately requires a few pit stops for fueling. A couple of short hops later and the SCA returns the shuttle to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From there they reverse the process by un-mating the shuttle from the 747 and then begin the ever-familiar orbiter processing steps to get it ready for the next flight.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 20 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Benjamin Higginbotham
Director: Benjamin Higginbotham
Views: 77
Posted by: spacevidcaster on Sep 17, 2009

How does NASA get the space shuttle from California to Florida after it has landed at one of the alternate landing sites? They use the SCA of course!

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