The Orion spacecraft heat shield recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the specialized NASA Super Guppy Transport aircraft. NASA says that although other planes can carry more weight than the Super Guppy, “…very few come close to its internal dimensions.” The Super Guppy has “…an immense cargo area that is 25 feet in diameter and 111 feet long….”, and the front of the Super Guppy opens using what NASA calls a “…unique hinged nose that opens 110 degrees.”
Super Guppy Transport Flight Engineer and Project Manager David Elliott spoke with reporters last week at the Kennedy Space Center, and said the Super Guppy requires a runway of at least 7,000 feet to land. Based on that alone, the Super Guppy could land on the long runway at Daytona Beach International Airport. Elliott also said the Super Guppy is the only aircraft that can ferry the Boeing V-22 Osprey, and has also carried twin Navy T38’s, as well as Space Shuttle and Shuttle cockpit mockups. The main challenge in flying the Orion heat shield from the Boston area to Kennedy Space Center on the Super Guppy, according to Elliott, was running environmental equipment aboard the aircraft to keep the heat shield in the 70 to 80 degree range.
The Super Guppy flies on four Allison 501-D22C Turboprop engines, and can cruise at 25,000 feet at 290 miles per hour. Elliott says the Super Guppy Transport crew is based out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, while the aircraft is based in El Paso, Texas.
Click here to visit the NASA Super Guppy Home Page.
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