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Retired NASA 905 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Prepares For Move To Its Permanent Home

August 26, 2013 - Executives from Boeing and Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center for NASA-Johnson Space Center, recently announced plans to permanently relocate NASA 905, a retired Boeing 747 airplane known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). 

The SCA will be featured in a one-of-a-kind, $12 million, six-story educational attraction currently under development. As part of the multi-year project, Boeing is sponsoring the necessary costs to disassemble and reassemble the huge 747 SCA to Space Center Houston. 

NASA-JSC officially transferred ownership of the aircraft to Space Center Houston in May. Boeing is now analyzing the scope of work and recourses needed to complete disassembly and reassembly, including special tooling requirements, of this massive airplane, which is 231 feet long, 63 feet tall and has a wingspan of 195 feet. After disassembly, the airplane will be transported in sections via trailers from Ellington Airport to Space Center Houston and reassembled on-site.


“Boeing was involved in every stage of the Space Shuttle program, which encompassed the ferried flights of NASA’s Orbiters across America for more than 35 years,” said John Elbon, Boeing vice president and general manager of space exploration. “Now, we have an opportunity to extend that contribution, while upholding one of our strongest corporate commitments – to inspire the next-generation workforce through dynamic STEM initiatives. We are proud the SCA will have its new home at Space Center Houston, adjacent the Johnson Space Center, home of America’s human spaceflight program.” 

Once transport and reassembly of the SCA is complete, the Orbiter replica, which arrived at Space Center Houston via barge in June 2012, will be mounted on top of the SCA in the actual transport configuration. Space Center Houston plans to construct a tower structure, including an elevator, to provide public, walk-through access to the interiors of the SCA and Orbiter.



“Each year, more than 750,000 visitors from around the world come to Space Center Houston to learn about America’s space program through our multitude of exhibits and theatres,” said Richard Allen, president and CEO of Space Center Houston. “Now, thanks to Boeing’s generous contribution, we will be able to produce an unparalleled attraction that will uniquely showcase the wonders of NASA’s innovation and technology. Once it is complete, the 747 will become a vehicle of inspiration, lending her wings to the dreams of imaginative students. The bulkheads of the 747 will house teaching facilities, immersive experiences, and rare artifacts that will thrill students to the technical achievements of this historic program.” 

The Shuttle Transport attraction is slated to open in 2015 and will expand Space Center Houston’s current educational programs, which aim to encourage students to consider careers in math and science. The new attraction will serve as a one-of-a-kind classroom that will bring all aspects of STEM education to life. “Johnson is excited to see the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft remain in Houston on permanent display for all to see," said Dr. Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA-JSC. "The original orbiter transport is an historic icon of the space shuttle era. It truly will be an amazing attraction.” 

Built in 1970 and acquired by NASA from American Airlines in 1974, the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft flew in wake vortex research studies by NASA's Flight Research Center, now the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before being modified by Boeing for its new role as an SCA. It carried the prototype shuttle Enterprise aloft in 1977 and launched it five times during the space shuttle Approach and Landing Tests at NASA Dryden. 

Renamed NASA 905, the SCA then underwent further modifications for the ferry flight role it would have over more than three decades. Reaching a speed of Mach 0.6 (or 457 mph), it flew 70 of the 87 ferry flights during the shuttle program's operational phase, including 46 of the 54 post-mission ferry flights from NASA Dryden to the Kennedy Space Center. 

NASA 905’s last service for the Space Shuttle Program was ferrying the Enterprise and the operational shuttles, Discovery and Endeavour, to their retirement homes in New York, Dulles Airport near Washington D.C. and Los Angeles respectively in 2012. It then departed NASA Dryden for the last time on Oct. 24, 2012, flying to Ellington Field in Houston to await its final retirement and disposition. It last flew when it was taken aloft on a 90-minute pilot proficiency flight in December 2012.

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