Shuttle Discovery Mated to 747 Carrier for her Final Flight to Smithsonian Home


Following a busy weekend of work, Space Shuttle Discovery is now attached piggyback style to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and all set for the final flight to her ultimate resting place at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia on Tuesday April 17. There she will reside on permanent display for the public just a short distance outside Washington D.C.

In the predawn hours on Saturday (April 14), Discovery was towed for the last time to the Mate- Demate Device (MDD) at the Shuttle Landing Facility and NASA’s specially outfitted Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet awaiting her in Florida. But howling winds in the subsequent hours delayed the hoist and mate on the back of the huge carrier plane.

Today (Sunday, April 15), the winds calmed and technicians raised Discovery and mechanically bolted her atop the SCA jet, designated NASA 905.

“It may have taken two days because of weather, but Discovery was attached to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft today (April 15),” NASA KSC spokesman Allard Beutel told Universe Today after the mating operation was finished.

“And we’re on track to give Discovery a proper send off to its new home on Tuesday morning.”

NASA 905 will carry out all the remaining flights to ferry Space Shuttles Discovery, Enterprise and Endeavour to their permanent museum sites in Virginia, New York and California. The last remaining shuttle – Atlantis – will be towed later this year to her new home a few miles down the road at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Towing Discovery into the mate/demate device at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The initial mating of Discovery and the SCA in the mate/demate device was completed at about 11:15 a.m. EDT. The shuttle was finally secured to the carrier jet a few hours later on Sunday afternoon and will be backed out of the MDD on Monday, April 16.

NASA 905 will lift off at about 7 a.m. to ferry Discovery to the Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on April 17 with a planned arrival between 10 to 11 a.m. depending on weather.

If you spot the shuttle along the way, send Ken your photos to post here at Universe Today.

The SCA will fly over multiple locations from Washington, DC to the Udvar-Hazy Center as low as 1500 feet for the public to enjoy before finally landing at Dulles Airport.

Ken hopes to be on hand at the Udvar-Hazy Center for Universe Today

Discovery’s final departure from the Kennedy Space Center marks a bittersweet time for all who worked on the shuttle program as well as fans and advocates of space exploration across the globe.

8 Replies to “Shuttle Discovery Mated to 747 Carrier for her Final Flight to Smithsonian Home”

      1. OH – I th0ught it was a back-up crew in case the shuttle has to separate in mid air= and glide someplace!

  1. I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed on Dyess A.F.B. from Jan. of 2000 to May of 2005. At some point in there a 747 carrying a space shuttle landed and I was there as it landed. Sadly, I cannot remember what shuttle it was or when exactly it happened and I can’t seem to find any mention of it online. I know somebody knows what I’m talking about because any piece of road that had even a partial view of the flight line was absolutely packed with cars. Alot of people saw it and I was “front row center” and even being as dirty as it was, having just come back from a mission, it was still an awsome sight.

    1. If it was early May 2001 it was likely Endeavor:

      Whereas, if it were early March 2001 it was likely Columbia:

      You may find this SCA chronology helpful:

      Fun Fact: I just happened to be reading Frank Close’s book “Anti-matter” yesterday whereupon the author noted:
      “Annihilate a single gram of antimatter, (about 1/25th of an ounce), and you would obtain as much energy as you could get from the fuel tanks of two dozen conventional space shuttles.”

  2. It’d be good PR for NASA if at least one of these Boeing mated Shuttles could detour through the main centers, especially Houston, Seattle, Dayton and the other places that unsuccessfully bid for a permanent Shuttle exhibit.

Comments are closed.