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The space shuttle orbiter Columbia, OV-102 was delivered to Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale, California on Saturday, September 25, 1999 on the back of a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). It was housed at Boeing's Orbiter Assembly Facility during an eightteen-month orbiter maintenance down period.
The Columbia was preceded by NASA's C-135A, N931NA, Weightless Wonder V. The fragile thermal protection system tiles cannot be flown through rain, so the C-135A acts as a weather pathfinder.
Weightless Wonder V flies ahead of the 747-SCA to scout for any precipitation. On this flight, the weather in New Mexico postponed the second leg of the flight for one day. The 747-SCA stayed overnight at Whiteman Air Force Base in Kansas.
Weightless Wonder V is used to provide astronaut trainees experience with the effects of zero-G. By following a ballistic trajectory, about a half minute of zero-G can be experienced. The result on astronaut trainees of a long series of such arcs has earned this airplane the nickname of "Vomet Comet". It is normally based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Space Shuttle Columbia arrived at Air Force Plant 42 shortly after 10:00 A. M. It had made low passes over NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base and Fox Field, west of Lancaster. For a moment, the 747-SCA, N905NA was handed off to the Fox Field tower by Joshua Control.
The 747-SCA circled at low altitude over the city of Lancaster and paraded around the Antelope Valley before lining up on Runway 25. Astronaut Gordon Fullerton was at the controls of the 747-SCA.
You can buy framed prints or greeting cards of this photograph.
Imagine my surprise to discover this frame in an Evergreen International promotional video for the 747 supertanker on YouTube. .
According to a NASA press release from the time:
The Space Shuttle Columbia will be outfitted with the multi-functional electronic display system (MEDS) or "glass cockpit". The new system improves crew interaction with the orbiter during flight and reduces the high cost of maintaining the outdated electromechanical cockpit displays currently onboard.
While her sister ships are being outfitted with external airlocks in support of the International Space Station assembly, Columbia's internal airlock will not be removed during this OMDP. Thus, Columbia will continue to be able to accommodate payloads requiring the orbiter's 60-foot long cargo bay. Though not currently slated to dock with the International Space Station, Columbia will be given additional wire harnesses and connectors while at Palmdale to allow installation of the Orbiter Docking System at Kennedy Space Center. This prepares Columbia for docking operations with the space station if plans change.
While at Palmdale, Columbia's 100 miles of wiring will be given a thorough inspection. This is part of NASA's fleet wide wiring inspection. The wiring problem was first identified on Columbia as a result of the STS-93 mission.
Preparation work for an enhanced Global Positioning Satellite system capability will also be performed on Columbia. When installed, the new system will more accurately pinpoint the orbiter's location in flight. A space-to-space orbiter radio and wireless video modification will increase communication capabilities for Columbia's future crew members and space walkers. In addition to scheduled weight saving modifications, Columbia's radiators or coolant lines will be enhanced for protection from orbital debris.
The space shuttle Columbia was expected to be at Palmdale for about nine months. It was scheduled to return to the Kennedy Space Center the following July.
Twenty years ago, on March 20, 1979, Columbia departed from Runway 04 at Edwards Air Force Base on 747-SCA N905NA on its delivery flight to the Kennedy Space Center. There was still a lot of work to be done on the installation of thermal protection system tiles. The American Airlines heritage of the 747-SCA was still evident.
More pictures from Space Shuttle events.
Edwards AFB displays.
You can buy a 2018 calendar featuring my photographs of Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
A dozen photos of 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Events depicted include:
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747-SCA N905NA/Enterprise Approach and Landing Test 1 take-off on August 12, 1977.
747-SCA N905NA/Enterprise Approach and Landing Test 4 take-off on October 12, 1977.
747-SCA N905NA/Columbia delivery take-off on March 20, 1979.
747-SCA N905NA/Challenger static and departure take-off on July 4, 1982.
747-SCA N911NA/Endeavor delivery take-off from Palmdale on May 2, 1991.
747-SCA N905NA/Columbia landing at Palmdale on September 25, 1999.
747-SCA N905NA/Discovery take-off on November 2, 2000.
747-SCA N905NA/Atlantis take-off on July 1, 2007.
747-SCA N911NA/Endeavor take-off on December 10, 2008.
747-SCA N911NA/Discovery take-off on September 20, 2009.
747-SCA N905NA/Endeavor flyover at LAX, September 21, 2012.
You can buy a 2018 calendar featuring my photographs of Space Shuttle Endeavour at Edwards Air Force Base.
Bad weather caused the Space shuttle Endeavour to divert to Edwards Air Force Base at the conclusion of STS-126 on November 30, 2007. Following servicing in the Mate/Demate Device, it departed from Edwards on the back of 747 Carrier Aircraft N911NA on December 10.
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You can buy a 2018 calendar featuring my photographs of Space Shuttle Discovery at Edwards Air Force Base.
A dozen photographs of the Space Shuttle Discovery at Edwards Air Force Base. Bad weather at the Kennedy Space Center caused the Space shuttle Discovery to divert to Edwards Air Force Base at the conclusion of mission STS-128 on September 11, 2009. Following servicing in the Mate/Demate Device, it departed from Edwards on the back of 747 Carrier Aircraft N911NA on September 20.
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You can buy a 2018 calendar featuring my photographs of Space Shuttle Endeavour's Final Flights.
A dozen photos of Space Shuttle Endeavour's Final Flights. Boeing 747-Shuttle Carrier Aircraft N905NA and Space Shuttle Endeavour arrived at Edwards Air Force Base from Biggs Army Airfield on September 20, 2012. The pair were placed on static display at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center that afternoon. The 747/Shuttle stack departed from Edwards Air Force Base on the morning of September 21. It toured California and several landmarks in the LA Basin. It made two low passes over Los Angeles International Airport before making its final landing. The 747-SCA was flown to Edwards Air Force Base on September 24 where it was retired. The Endeavour ison display at the California Science Center.
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Books and Videos about the Space Shuttle from Amazon.com
Visit the Lockett Books Amazon Webstore for a selection of aviation and space related books and DVDs.
More pictures from Space Shuttle events.
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