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Video of NASA’s Boeing 747-123 (N905NA) Last Take Off as a Shuttle Carrier


What is better than a classic Boeing 747-100? One that carries a frek’n space shuttle. This is an epic video, but at the same time it is sad. This documents N905NA’s final flight as a Shuttle Carrier from LAX to Dryden Flight Research Facility completed on September 24, 2012. The second Shuttle Carrier (N911NA)  was retired on February 8, 2012.

NASA will continue to use N905NA to research reducing turbulence produced by larger aircraft.

BONUS: Video of both 747 shuttle carriers flying in formation

N905NA doing its job, carrying the shuttle Discovery in April 2012. Photo by jsmjr / Flickr.

N905NA doing its job, carrying the shuttle Discovery in April 2012. Photo by jsmjr / Flickr.

This 747-100 was originally delivered to American Airlines in 1970 as N9668. In 1974, NASA took ownership and was converted to a Shuttle Carrier.

From NASA’s website, the features that distinguish the two SCAs from standard 747 jetliners are:

  • Three struts with associated interior structural strengthening protrude from the top of the fuselage (two aft, one forward) on which the orbiter is attached.
  • Two additional vertical stabilizers, one on each end of the standard horizontal stabilizer, to enhance directional stability.
  • Removal of all interior furnishings and equipment aft of the forward No. 1 doors.
  • Instrumentation used by SCA flight crews and engineers to monitor orbiter electrical loads during the ferry flights and also during pre- and post-ferry flight operations.

Thanks to SpeedBirdHD for taking and sharing this video.

Video of Two Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in Flight

From NASA’s website about the video: For the first time ever, NASA’s two highly modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft briefly flew in formation over the Edwards Air Force Base test range Aug. 2. Both aircraft were scheduled to be in the air on the same day, NASA 911 (foreground) on a flight crew proficiency flight, NASA 905 (rear) on a functional check flight following maintenance operations. Since both aircraft were scheduled to be in the air at the same time, SCA pilot Jeff Moultrie of Johnson Space Center’s Aircraft Operations Directorate took the opportunity to have both SCA’s fly in formation for about 20 minutes while NASA photographer Carla Thomas captured still and video imagery from a NASA Dryden F/A-18.

There are only two specially modified Boeing 747-100s that were used to transport the Space Shuttle from their landing location back to the Kennedy Space Center. The first 747-100 (N905NA) was originally built for American Airlines and acquired in 1974. The aircraft wore American’s livery (minus titles) until it was repainted in 1983 with a NASA livery. In 1988, NASA purchased a second 747-100, this time an SR model, from Japan Airlines (JAL – N911NA). The second started operations with NASA in 1991.

So what will happen to the 747s now? Most likely they are going to be retired or end up as a show piece in a museum. Zach Rosenberg, with Flight Global, pointed out via email that, “Boeing recently borrowed one to fly their Phantom Ray from St. Louis to Edwards AFB.” However, Rosenberg does not feel that NASA has enough projects to keep either of the aircraft.

If you know anyone looking for a Boeing 747-100 with low hours and a unique look, I am guessing NASA might have a deal for you.

Thanks @jetcitystar for pointing this out.

Other Goodies:
* The inside of N905NA still has seats and spiral staircase in the front
* 117 photos of N905NA on Airliners.net
* 40 photos of N911NA on Airliners.net
* Photo of the two 747s in the air together from NASA

Boeing Moves into Space Tourism

Boeing's mock up of what the CST-100 will most likely look like.

Boeing's mock up of what the CST-100 will most likely look like. Photo from Boeing.

The Boeing Company has been making things that go into space for quite some time now. Earlier in the week, they announced plans to possibly start sending normal Joe-Schmos into space…for a price.

Boeing and Space Adventures have created a memorandum of agreement regarding the marketing the transportation of passengers on commercial flight board the Boeing Crew Space Transportation-100 (or CST-100) to low Earth orbit.

Boeing plans to use the CST-100 to transport crews to the International Space Station, but will also provide room for private individuals, companies and pretty much anyone who isn’t NASA to hitch a ride.

Boeing and Space Adventures have not yet set a price per seat for spaceflight participants, but will do so when full-scale development is under way. Boeing continues to advance its design for the CST-100 spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement. The spacecraft, which can carry seven people, will be able to fly on multiple launch vehicles and is expected to be operational by 2015.

“We are excited about the potential to offer flights on Boeing’s spacecraft,” said Eric Anderson, co-founder and chairman of Space Adventures. “With our customer experience and Boeing’s heritage in human spaceflight, our goal is not only to benefit the individuals who fly to space, but also to help make the resources of space available to the commercial sector by bringing the value from space back to Earth.”

At this point there is no cost set up for these flights, but don’t expect them to be cheap.

In my opinion this is awesome. Virgin Galactic is already well on their way to start space tourism and getting a big company like Boeing involved will just up the stakes and create competition.

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