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Space Shuttle Enterprise

By Marty McDowell/NASA

Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle Orbiter, was originally to be named Constitution (in honor of the U.S. Constitution's Bicentennial). However, viewers of the popular TV Science Fiction show Star Trek started a write-in campaign urging the White House to rename the vehicle to Enterprise. Designated, OV-101, the vehicle was rolled out of Rockwell's Air Force Plant 42, Site 1 Palmdale California assembly facility on Sept. 17, 1976. On Jan. 31, 1977, it was transported 36 miles overland from Rockwell's assembly facility to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base for the approach and landing test program.

The nine-month-long ALT program was conducted from February through November 1977 at the Dryden Flight Research Facility and demonstrated that the orbiter could fly in the atmosphere and land like an airplane, except without power-gliding flight.

Two NASA astronaut crews-Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton and Joe Engle and Dick Truly-took turns flying the 150,000-pound spacecraft to free-flight landings.

The ALT program involved ground tests and flight tests. The ground tests included taxi tests of the Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft with the Enterprise mated atop the SCA to determine structural loads and responses and assess the mated capability in ground handling and control characteristics up to flight takeoff speed. The taxi tests also validated 747 steering and braking with the orbiter attached. A ground test of orbiter systems followed the unmanned captive tests. All orbiter systems were activated as they would be in atmospheric flight. This was the final preparation for the manned captive flight phase.

Five captive flights of the Enterprise mounted atop the SCA with the Enterprise unmanned and Enterprise's systems inert were conducted to assess the structural integrity and performance handling qualities of the mated craft.

Three manned captive flights that followed the five captive flights included an astronaut crew aboard the orbiter operating its flight control systems while the orbiter remained perched atop the SCA. These flights were designed to exercise and evaluate all systems in the flight environment in preparation for the orbiter release (free) flights. They included flutter tests of the mated craft at low and high speed, a separation trajectory test and a dress rehearsal for the first orbiter free flight.

In the five free flights the astronaut crew separated the spacecraft from the SCA and maneuvered to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base. In the first four such flights the landing was on a dry lake bed; in the fifth, the landing was on Edwards' main concrete runway under conditions simulating a return from space. The last two free flights were made without the tail cone, which is the spacecraft's configuration during an actual landing from Earth orbit. These flights verified the orbiter's pilot-guided approach and landing capability; demonstrated the orbiter's subsonic terminal area energy management autoland approach capability; and verified the orbiter's subsonic airworthiness, integrated system operation and selected subsystems in preparation for the first manned orbital flight. The flights demonstrated the orbiter's ability to approach and land safely with a minimum gross weight and using several center-of-gravity configurations.

For all of the captive flights and the first three free flights, the orbiter was outfitted with a tail cone covering its aft section to reduce aerodynamic drag and turbulence. The final two free flights were without the tail cone, and the three simulated space shuttle main engines and two orbital maneuvering system engines were exposed aerodynamically.

The final phase of the ALT program prepared the spacecraft for four ferry flights. Fluid systems were drained and purged, the tail cone was reinstalled, and elevon locks were installed. The forward attachment strut was replaced to lower the orbiter's cant from 6 to 3 degrees. This reduces drag to the mated vehicles during the ferry flights.

After the ferry flight tests, OV-101 was returned to the NASA hangar at the Dryden Flight Research Facility and modified for vertical ground vibration tests at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

On March 13, 1978, the Enterprise was ferried atop the SCA to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where it was mated with the external tank and solid rocket boosters and subjected to a series of vertical ground vibration tests. These tested the mated configuration's critical structural dynamic response modes, which were assessed against analytical math models used to design the various element interfaces.

These were completed in March 1979. On April 10, 1979, the Enterprise was ferried to the Kennedy Space Center. mated with the external tank and solid rocket boosters and transported via the mobile launcher platform to Launch Complex 39-A. At Launch Complex 39-A, the Enterprise served as a practice and launch complex fit-check verification tool representing the flight vehicles.

It was ferried back to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility on Aug. 16, 1979, and then returned overland to Rockwell's Palmdale final assembly facility on Oct. 30, 1979. Certain components were refurbished for use on flight vehicles being assembled at Palmdale. The Enterprise was then returned overland to the Dryden Flight Research Facility on Sept. 6, 1981.

During May and June of 1983, Enterprise was ferried to the Paris, France, Air Show, as well as to Germany, Italy, England and Canada, and was returned to the Dryden Flight Research Facility.

In the April-October 1984 time period, Enterprise was ferried to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and to Mobile, Ala. From there it was taken by barge to New Orleans, La., for the United States 1984 World's Fair.

In November 1984 it was ferried to Vandenberg Air Force Base and used as a practice and fit-check verification tool. On May 24, 1985, Enterprise was ferried from Vandenberg Air Force Base to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility.

On Sept. 20, 1985, Enterprise was ferried from Dryden Flight Research Facility to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On Nov. 18, 1985, Enterprise was ferried from the Kennedy Space Center to Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C., and became the property of the Smithsonian Institution. The Enterprise was built as a test vehicle and is not equipped for space flight.

Following the success of the Enterprise tests, the orbiter Columbia was created and it became the first Space Shuttle to fly into Earth orbit in 1981. Four sister ships joined the fleet over the next 10 years: Challenger, arriving in 1982 but destroyed four years later; Discovery, 1983; Atlantis, 1985; and Endeavour, built as a replacement for Challenger, 1991.

In the day-to-day world of Shuttle operations and processing, Space Shuttle orbiters go by a more prosaic designation. Enterprise is commonly refered to as OV-101, for Orbiter Vehicle-101.


Enterprise Landing on 9-13-77, courtesy of NASA

Construction Milestones

07/26/72 Contract Award
06/04/74 Start structural assembly of Crew Module
08/26/74 Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
05/23/75 Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
08/24/75 Start of Final Assembly
03/12/75 Completed Final Assembly
09/17/76 Rollout from Palmdale
01/31/77 Overland transport from Palmdale to Edwards
04/10/79 Delivery to Kennedy Space Center

Enterprise's Flights:

Taxi Tests:

1. 02/15/77 (Max speed 89 Mph)
2. 02/15/77 (Max speed 140 Mph)
3. 02/15/77 (Max speed 157 Mph)

Captive-Inactive Flights:

4. 02/18/77
5. 02/22/77
6. 02/25/77
7. 02/28/77
8. 03/02/77

Captive-Active Flights:

09. 06/18/77
10. 06/28/77
11. 07/26/77

Free Flights:

12. 08/12/77
13. 09/13/77
14. 09/23/77
15. 10/12/77
16. 10/26/77

Source: NASA.


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about Space Shuttle Enterprise? Have you any compelling stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I have very fond memories of the Enterprise. I was one of the technicians who was sent to Edwards AFS/Dryden in 1983 to restore the Enterprise for ferry flight and get it ready for the craddle fit check program that was conducted at the Weight and Thrust hanger at Edwards to prove the capability of removing a payload from the cargo bay should it have to land at an overseas landing site. One event that occured while I was in the Weight and Thrust hanger was having the Air Force bring in a B1A Bomber and nose it right up to the Shuttle. I took the Rockwell photograher up on a 60 ft. lift for a picture taking session and broght my video camera with me. The resulting videos with the B1A Bomber and Shuttle in the same frame is very impressive. I spent 9 months in all working on her and later became a Leadman on the West Coast Move, Mate and Recovery team out of Vandenberg AFS. I participated in the FVV at Vandenberg and organized the Close Out Crew for Vandenberg flights."

--Allan Shapiro

"It was very exciting to see the shuttle on top of a 747 fly low over the Capitol Beltway here in Northern Virginia. We made a special breakfast and ate out on our deck to see it go over. I just wish I could remember what year this took place."


Space References (Books):
Dickinson, Terence. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books, 1998.
Greene, Brian. Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition. Bantam, 1996.
Hawking, Stephen. Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe. New Millenium, 2002.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam, 2001.
Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension.
Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Pub Group, 2001.
Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann. Comet, Revised Edition. Ballantine, 1997
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Reissue Edition. Ballantine, 1993
Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine, 1997

Space References (Videos):
Cosmos. PBS, 2000.
Stephen Hawking's Universe. PBS, 1997.
Hyperspace. BBC, 2002.
Life Beyond Earth PBS, 1999.
The Planets
. BBC, 1999.
Understanding The Universe. A&E, 1996.



Courtesy of NASA

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