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Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Space exhibit panorama (Space Shuttle Enterprise)

Image by Chris Devers
See much more photographs of this, and the Wikipedia write-up.

Specifics, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Space Shuttle Enterprise:

Rockwell International Corporation

Nation of Origin:
United States of America

Overall: 57 ft. tall x 122 ft. long x 78 ft. wing span, 150,000 lb.
(1737.36 x 3718.57 x 2377.44cm, 68039.6kg)

Aluminum airframe and physique with some fiberglass functions payload bay doors are graphite epoxy composite thermal tiles are simulated (polyurethane foam) except for test samples of actual tiles and thermal blankets.

The initial Space Shuttle orbiter, &quotEnterprise,&quot is a complete-scale test vehicle employed for flights in the atmosphere and tests on the ground it is not equipped for spaceflight. Though the airframe and flight control elements are like those of the Shuttles flown in space, this car has no propulsion system and only simulated thermal tiles due to the fact these functions were not necessary for atmospheric and ground tests. &quotEnterprise&quot was rolled out at Rockwell International’s assembly facility in Palmdale, California, in 1976. In 1977, it entered service for a nine-month-long strategy-and-landing test flight system. Thereafter it was employed for vibration tests and fit checks at NASA centers, and it also appeared in the 1983 Paris Air Show and the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans. In 1985, NASA transferred &quotEnterprise&quot to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Transferred from National Aeronautics and Space Administration

• • •

Quoting from Wikipedia | Space Shuttle Enterprise:

The Space Shuttle Enterprise (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-101) was the very first Space Shuttle orbiter. It was constructed for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle system to perform test flights in the atmosphere. It was constructed with out engines or a functional heat shield, and was for that reason not capable of spaceflight.

Initially, Enterprise had been intended to be refitted for orbital flight, which would have made it the second space shuttle to fly after Columbia. However, in the course of the building of Columbia, particulars of the final design changed, specifically with regard to the weight of the fuselage and wings. Refitting Enterprise for spaceflight would have involved dismantling the orbiter and returning the sections to subcontractors across the country. As this was an costly proposition, it was determined to be less expensive to construct Challenger about a body frame (STA-099) that had been created as a test article. Similarly, Enterprise was deemed for refit to replace Challenger soon after the latter was destroyed, but Endeavour was built from structural spares as an alternative.


Construction started on the first orbiter on June 4, 1974. Designated OV-101, it was initially planned to be named Constitution and unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17, 1976. A create-in campaign by Trekkies to President Gerald Ford asked that the orbiter be named after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the tv show Star Trek. Even though Ford did not mention the campaign, the president—who for the duration of Planet War II had served on the aircraft carrier USS&nbspMonterey&nbsp(CVL-26) that served with USS&nbspEnterprise&nbsp(CV-6)—said that he was &quotpartial to the name&quot and overrode NASA officials.

The design of OV-101 was not the identical as that planned for OV-102, the 1st flight model the tail was constructed differently, and it did not have the interfaces to mount OMS pods. A huge quantity of subsystems—ranging from major engines to radar equipment—were not installed on this car, but the capacity to add them in the future was retained. Alternatively of a thermal protection system, its surface was mainly fiberglass.

In mid-1976, the orbiter was utilized for ground vibration tests, permitting engineers to examine information from an actual flight car with theoretical models.

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 have been on hand at the dedication ceremony.

Approach and landing tests (ALT)

Main write-up: Method and Landing Tests

On January 31, 1977, it was taken by road to Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, to begin operational testing.

Even though at NASA Dryden, Enterprise was used by NASA for a assortment of ground and flight tests intended to validate aspects of the shuttle plan. The initial nine-month testing period was referred to by the acronym ALT, for &quotApproach and Landing Test&quot. These tests included a maiden &quotflight&quot on February 18, 1977 atop a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to measure structural loads and ground handling and braking qualities of the mated program. Ground tests of all orbiter subsystems have been carried out to confirm functionality prior to atmospheric flight.

The mated Enterprise/SCA mixture was then subjected to five test flights with Enterprise unmanned and unactivated. The objective of these test flights was to measure the flight traits of the mated combination. These tests had been followed with 3 test flights with Enterprise manned to test the shuttle flight control systems.

Enterprise underwent 5 totally free flights exactly where the craft separated from the SCA and was landed beneath astronaut handle. These tests verified the flight characteristics of the orbiter design and were carried out below several aerodynamic and weight configurations. On the fifth and final glider flight, pilot-induced oscillation problems had been revealed, which had to be addressed just before the 1st orbital launch occurred.

On August 12, 1977, the space shuttle Enterprise flew on its own for the 1st time.

Preparation for STS-1

Following the ALT system, Enterprise was ferried amongst several NASA facilities to configure the craft for vibration testing. In June 1979, it was mated with an external tank and solid rocket boosters (recognized as a boilerplate configuration) and tested in a launch configuration at Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A.


With the completion of crucial testing, Enterprise was partially disassembled to allow specific elements 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 (for the duration of the 1984 Louisiana Planet Exposition). It was also utilised to fit-verify the in no way-utilized 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.


Soon after the Challenger disaster, NASA deemed using Enterprise as a replacement. Nevertheless refitting the shuttle with all of the required gear needed for it to be employed in space was considered, but as an alternative it was decided to use spares constructed at the same time as Discovery and Atlantis to develop Endeavour.


In 2003, following the breakup of Columbia in the course of re-entry, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board performed tests at Southwest Analysis Institute, which employed an air gun to shoot foam blocks of equivalent size, mass and speed to that which struck Columbia at a test structure which mechanically replicated the orbiter wing leading edge. They removed a fiberglass panel from Enterprise’s wing to carry out analysis of the material and attached it to the test structure, then shot a foam block at it. Although the panel was not broken as a outcome of the test, the effect was sufficient to permanently deform a seal. As the reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panel on Columbia was 2.five occasions weaker, this recommended that the RCC top edge would have been shattered. Extra tests on the fiberglass were canceled in order not to risk damaging the test apparatus, and a panel from Discovery was tested to determine the effects of the foam on a similarly-aged RCC top edge. On July 7, 2003, a foam effect test designed a hole 41&nbspcm by 42.five&nbspcm (16.1&nbspinches by 16.7&nbspinches) in the protective RCC panel. The tests clearly demonstrated that a foam effect of the type Columbia sustained could seriously breach the protective RCC panels on the wing leading edge.

The board determined that the probable lead to of the accident was that the foam effect brought on a breach of a reinforced carbon-carbon panel along the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, allowing hot gases generated for the duration of re-entry to enter the wing and cause structural collapse. This caused Columbia to spin out of control, breaking up with the loss of the entire crew.

Museum exhibit

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 has been the centerpiece of the space collection. On April 12, 2011, NASA announced that Space Shuttle Discovery, the most traveled orbiter in the fleet, will be added to the collection after the Shuttle fleet is retired. When that happens, Enterprise will be moved to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, to a newly constructed hangar adjacent to the museum. In preparation for the anticipated relocation, engineers evaluated the car in early 2010 and determined that it was secure to fly on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft when once more.