Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Space Shuttle Enterprise
The Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first Space Shuttle orbiter. It was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform test flights in the atmosphere.
Construction began on the first orbiter on June 4, 1974. Designated OV-101, it was originally planned to be named Constitution. However, a write-in campaign caused it to be renamed after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show Star Trek.
On September 17, 1976, Enterprise was rolled out of Rockwell's plant at Palmdale, California. In recognition of its fictional namesake, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the principal cast of the original series of Star Trek were on hand at the dedication ceremony.
With the completion of critical testing, Enterprise was partially disassembled to allow certain components to be reused in other shuttles, then underwent an international tour visiting France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the U.S. states of California, Alabama, and Louisiana (during the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition). It was also used to fit-check the never-used shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg AFB, California. Finally, on November 18, 1985, Enterprise was ferried to Washington, D.C., where it became property of the Smithsonian Institution.
Enterprise was stored at the Smithsonian's hangar at Washington Dulles International Airport before it was restored and moved to the newly built Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, where it is the centerpiece of the space collection. Space Shuttle Discovery is expected to be added to the collection once the Shuttle fleet is retired. When that happens, Enterprise will likely be loaned out to other institutions. Engineers evaluated the vehicle in early 2010 and determined that it was safe to fly on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft again.
Why am I posting about this? Because her maiden "flight" was on February 18, 1977 atop a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to measure structural loads and ground handling and braking characteristics of the mated system.
I remember that flight, even though it didn't have engines and was on top of a 747, it made a HUGE impression on so many kids back then. I still remember building the plastic model.
Dan Emplit WBFD