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  • Narrator: The space shuttle could get all the way to space on its own power whenever it

  • launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But when a shuttle orbiter travels from

  • one place to another here on Earth, it needs a lift -- a piggyback ride, or "ferry flight,"

  • aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

  • It's an unusual sight -- a low-flying jumbo jet, with a spaceship bolted onto its back.

  • "And it's really amazing to see, first, the orbiter in person. It's almost surreal."

  • Narrator: The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is actually a Boeing 747 modified to handle the weight and

  • drag of the shuttle orbiter on its back. It's been supporting the Space Shuttle Program ever

  • since the approach and landing tests during the late 1970s. In 1990, NASA added an additional

  • modified 747 to its SCA "fleet" to make a total of two aircraft available for ferry flights.

  • The shuttles began all their space careers with ferry flights when they were first delivered to

  • Kennedy from the manufacturing plant in Palmdale, Calif.

  • But most of the time, a ferry flight was needed to bring a shuttle back from Edwards Air Force

  • Base in California following a landing on the west coast due to poor weather in Florida.

  • "When they built the 747, they built a very nice airplane. It does what you want when you fly it.

  • The only thing that's different is when you're carrying an orbiter, there is a very noticeable

  • vibration, and of course speeds are quite a bit higher. But as far as the feel in the aircraft,

  • and the ease with which the aircraft flies, it is deceptively easy."

  • Narrator: After an end-of-mission landing at Edwards, it took the landing team about a week,

  • weather permitting, to prepare it for its upcoming cross-country trip.

  • A tail cone was installed to reduce aerodynamic drag and turbulence during the ferry flight.

  • The spacecraft was lifted inside a large, gantry-like device called the Mate/Demate device... the

  • aircraft rolled underneath... and the orbiter was lowered and bolted into place.

  • The team simply reversed the process to remove the shuttle from the plane.

  • Sometimes, just getting the shuttle and aircraft ready for the trip could be a test in itself.

  • NASA Flow Director Stephanie Stilson recalls the challenges the ferry flight team encountered in

  • 2005, after space shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards at the end of the return-to-flight mission,

  • STS-114.

  • "And everybody thinks the desert, dry, no issues, no rain. Well, we had snow in the mountains,

  • we had rain, we had lightning that actually struck the Mate/Demate device, and we had locusts.

  • So it was like everything that could possibly happen outside of our control happened.

  • But once again, that just gave us a chance to show how we can react to changes and things that

  • we're not expecting."

  • Narrator: But the toughest part of a ferry flight is keeping the shuttle safe from harmful

  • weather or other conditions during flight. So, a "pathfinder" aircraft flies 100 miles ahead of the

  • attached pair, making sure the flight path is safe and dry.

  • "You don't want to bring it through any turbulence.

  • No visible moisture.

  • There's some temperature limitations.

  • And essentially, we're the plane to make sure we don't bring the orbiter through there.

  • So our job is to be very vigilant of any change in weather conditions,

  • and to make sure the orbiter is brought on a safe flight path."

  • Narrator: There were 87 ferry flights throughout the Space Shuttle Program, including flights for

  • testing, delivery, orbiter upgrades, and of course, end-of-mission landings.

  • Today, the shuttles are being prepared at Kennedy to go on public display at sites across the

  • country. Atlantis won't need an aircraft to move to its new home at the

  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

  • But Discovery, Endeavour and the test orbiter, Enterprise, will each take one last ride.

  • Discovery will be flown to Dulles International Airport in Virginia and then moved to the nearby

  • Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center. It will take the place of Enterprise, which will be flown from

  • there to the John F. Kennedy International Airport and then on to the Intrepid Air, Sea and

  • Space Museum in New York City. Endeavour will be flown to Los Angeles International Airport,

  • before making its way to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

  • The bulky combination of orbiter and aircraft is unmistakable, and usually attracts attention

  • from onlookers on the ground as it makes its way across the sky.

  • NASA plans to keep one of the modified 747 for its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared

  • Astronomy, or SOFIA, science program.

  • But as the shuttles make their final ferry flights, space fans along the way may be able to catch

  • a glimpse of the duo making one more pass overhead.

  • "So that's a great thing, to be able to do that, and then if we have any stops along the way,

  • it's a chance for us to share the orbiter with the public in an area that most likely has never

  • even seen a space shuttle that close."

Narrator: The space shuttle could get all the way to space on its own power whenever it


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B1 中級

スペースシャトル時代フェリーフライト (Space Shuttle Era: Ferry Flights)

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    Shelby Lai に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日