Space Shuttle Enterprise

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File:Enterprise KSC 1979.jpg
Enterprise visited pad 39-A in launch configuration 20 months before the first Shuttle launch. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Template:Space Shuttles The Space Shuttle Enterprise (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-101) was the first shuttle built for NASA. It was constructed without engines or a functional heat shield and was therefore not capable of space operations; its purpose was to perform test flights in the atmosphere.

At one point in the program, Enterprise had been intended to be refitted for orbital flight, which would have made it the second space shuttle to fly after the Space Shuttle Columbia. However, it was found to be cheaper to build the Space Shuttle Challenger around a body frame ("STA-099") that had been created as a test article. Similarly, Enterprise was considered for refit to replace Challenger after the latter was destroyed, but the Space Shuttle Endeavour was built from spares instead.

Background

Originally planned to be called Constitution, a write-in campaign caused the test vehicle to be renamed after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show Star Trek. Most of the cast of the original series, as well as Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, were on hand at the dedication ceremony, and the show's theme music was played. A mural in the captain's office (known as the Ready room) in Star Trek: Enterprise, in addition to a painting seen briefly in the crew's lounge of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (released only two years after the Enterprise shuttle tests) depicts this Space Shuttle as one of the starship's own namesakes, and images in the opening credits of the series Star Trek: Enterprise pay similar tribute. Oddly, Star Trek: Enterprise later pictured a model of the International Space Station with the Space Shuttle Enterprise docked with it, despite the fact that Enterprise has never been fitted for launch into space.

File:Space Shuttle Enterprise.jpg
Enterprise banks on its second Approach and Landing Test, September 13, 1977. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Approach & Landing Tests

Enterprise was used by NASA for a variety of ground and flight tests intended to validate aspects of the shuttle program. The initial nine-month testing period was referred to by the acronym ALT for "Approach and Landing Test". These tests included a maiden "flight" 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. Ground tests of all orbiter subsystems were carried out to verify functionality prior to atmospheric flight. These ALT tests took place at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The mated Enterprise/SCA combination was then subjected to five test flights with Enterprise unmanned and unactivated. The purpose of these test flights was to measure the flight characteristics of the mated combination. These tests were followed with three test flights with Enterprise manned in order to test the shuttle flight control systems.

Finally, Enterprise underwent five free flights where the craft separated from the SCA and was landed under astronaut control. These tests verified the craft's flight characteristics and were carried out under several aerodynamic and weight configurations. See ALT table below for complete list of ALT flight tests.

Additional Shuttle Fittings

Following the ALT program, Enterprise was ferried between several NASA facilities to configure the craft for vibration testing. Ultimately it was mated with an external tank and solid rocket boosters and tested in a launch configuration.


Retirement

With the completion of critical testing, Enterprise was partially disassembled to allow certain components to be reused in other shuttles, then underwent a world tour visiting France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the US states of California, Alabama, and Louisiana. It was also used to fit-check the never-used shuttle launch pad, SLC-6 at Vandenberg AFB, California. Finally, on November 18, 1985, Enterprise was ferried to Washington, D.C., where it became property of the Smithsonian Institution.

File:SSEnterprise1.JPG
The Enterprise on display at the Smithsonian hangar near Dulles Airport.

Enterprise was at the Smithsonian's hangar at Washington Dulles International Airport before being moved to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles, where it is on display.


Launch Probability

According to NASA's Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer, Enterprise was not equipped to launch into space but was intended from the outset for ALT flight testing of the craft during the critical approach and landing phase as an unpowered glider. For this purpose, the ship was lofted up to altitude on the back of a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft and then released for free and piloted flight back to the landing at Edwards Air Force Base. Structurally, Enterprise was not suited to be made spaceworthy, and so it was sent to Dulles Airport and Smithsonian storage.

CAIB

In 2003, after the breakup of the Shuttle Columbia during re-entry, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board removed a fiberglass panel from Enterprise's wing to undergo testing [1]. The test involved firing a piece of foam at high velocity at the panel. While the panel was not broken as a result of the test, the impact was enough to permanently deform a seal. As the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon panel on Columbia was 2.5 times weaker, this strongly suggested that the RCC leading edge would have been shattered. Additional tests on the fiberglass were canceled in order not to risk damaging the test apparatus, and a test on panel from Discovery was tested to know the effects of the foam on a similarly-aged RCC leading edge. A piece of foam from the external fuel tank broke off and struck the leading edge of Columbia's left wing during launch. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board determined that this impact caused a breach of a Reinforced Carbon-Carbon panel along the leading edge of Columbia's left wing, allowing super-heated gases generated during re-entry to enter the wing and cause structural collapse. This caused Columbia to spin out of control, and the ship was lost with all hands.


Enterprise ALT flights

Test Flight Date Speed Altitude Crew Duration Comment
Taxi Test #1 February 15, 1977 89 mph
143 km/h
taxi none taxi Concrete runway,
tailcone on
Taxi Test #2 February 15, 1977 140 mph
225 km/h
taxi none taxi Concrete runway,
tailcone on
Taxi Test #3 February 15, 1977 157 mph
253 km/h
taxi none taxi Concrete runway,
tailcone on
Captive-Inert Flight #1 February 18, 1977 287 mph
462 km/h
16,000 ft
4,877 m
none 2 hrs 5 min Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Inert Flight #2 February 22, 1977 328 mph
528 km/h
22,600 ft
6,888 m
none 3 hrs 13 min Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Inert Flight #3 February 25, 1977 425 mph
684 km/h
26,600 ft
8,108 m
none 2 hrs 28 min Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Inert Flight #4 February 28, 1977 425 mph
684 km/h
28,565 ft
8,707 m
none 2 hrs 11 min Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Inert Flight #5 March 2, 1977 474 mph
763 km/h
30,000 ft
9,144 m
none 1 hrs 39 min Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Active Flight #1 June 18, 1977 208 mph
335 km/h
14,970 ft
4,563 m
Fred Haise, Gordon Fullerton 55 min 46 s Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Active Flight #2 June 28, 1977 310 mph
499 km/h
22,030 ft
6,715 m
Joe Engle, Richard Truly 62 min 0 s Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Captive-Active Flight #3 July 26, 1977 311 mph
501 km/h
30,292 ft
9,233 m
Fred Haise, Gordon Fullerton 59 min 53 s Tailcone on,
landed with 747
Free Flight #1 August 12, 1977 310 mph
499 km/h
24,100 ft
7,346 m
Fred Haise, Gordon Fullerton 5 min 21 s Tailcone on,
lakebed landing
Free Flight #2 September 13, 1977 310 mph
499 km/h
26,000 ft
7,925 m
Joe Engle, Richard Truly 5 min 28 s Tailcone on,
lakebed landing
Free Flight #3 September 23, 1977 290 mph
467 km/h
24,700 ft
7,529 m
Fred Haise, Gordon Fullerton 5 min 34 s Tailcone on,
lakebed landing
Free Flight #4 October 12, 1977 278 mph
447 km/h
22,400 ft
6,828 m
Joe Engle, Richard Truly 2 min 34 s Tailcone off,
lakebed landing
Free Flight #5 October 26, 1977 283 mph
456 km/h
19,000 ft
5,791 m
Fred Haise, Gordon Fullerton 2 min 1 s Tailcone off,
runway landing
  • Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (747) Crew For All Tests:
    • Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., Pilot
    • Thomas C. McMurtry, Pilot
    • Louis E. Guidry, Jr., Flight Engineer
    • Victor W. Horton, Flight Engineer

Media

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==See also==

File:Orbiterenterprise-slc6.jpg
Enterprise at SLC-6 at Vandenburg AFB

External links

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