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article imageNASA's Orion capsule takes a ride on the 'Super Guppy'

By Karen Graham     Nov 26, 2019 in Science
Transporting NASA's Orion space capsule from one place to another can be a daunting task, especially when it has a mass of about 8.5 metric tons (19,000 pounds). But NASA also has a very big plane that can do the job.
NASA's "Super Guppy" is a huge plane with a cavernous belly, built to carry large, heavy loads between bases within the United States. Railroad tunnels, narrow roads, low bridges, and power lines present physical limitations when attempting to move large and cumbersome cargo from place to place, so a specially designed cargo plane was needed.
The Super Guppy fits the bill. The plane's cargo area is massive, measuring 25 feet wide and 111 feet long. Specifically, it was designed to carry items that would be difficult to fit inside a regular aircraft. It can carry a payload of up to 54,500 pounds, with a maximum range at the maximum payload of 564 miles.
The Super Guppy
The Super Guppy
Space Center Houston
Even though its maximum payload is less than that of a regular cargo plane - the big advantage with the Super Guppy is how the cargo can be easily loaded. Its front nose can be opened, giving the aircraft an unobstructed loading area. The Super Guppy’s hinged nose opens 110 degrees for cargo loading.
A brief history of the Super Guppy
The very first Super Guppy or "SG" was built directly from the fuselage of a C-97J Turbo Stratocruiser, the military version of the 1950s Boeing 377 Stratocruiser passenger plane. It flew for the first time on September 19, 1962. This plane was followed by the B377SG Super Guppy, an even larger version of the first.
Today, all the Super Guppies ever built remain either in service or on display. The B377PG Super Guppy - built using a Boeing Model 377 airframe, and its three sister ships were built in the 1970s for Europe's Airbus Industrie to ferry outsized structures for Airbus jetliners to the final assembly plant in Toulouse, France.
It later was acquired by the European Space Agency, and then acquired by NASA in late 1997 for the transport of large structures for the International Space Station to the launch site.
This Super Guppy replaced an earlier-model Super Guppy, which has been retired and is used for spare parts. NASA's Super Guppy Transport carries NASA registration number N941NA and is based at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center.
Aero Spacelines B377SG Super Guppy  registration N940NS. On display at Pima Air and Space Museum.
Aero Spacelines B377SG Super Guppy, registration N940NS. On display at Pima Air and Space Museum.
Andrew Rollinger
Orion takes a ride on the Super Guppy
The latest piece of equipment to hitch a ride on a Super Guppy was the Orion Space capsule. Orion, which will help astronauts get to and from the moon and Mars, flew from Florida's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to Ohio over the weekend to go through a number of tests.
The Super Guppy landed at Mansfield Lahm Airport on Sunday (Nov. 24). Orion was removed from the plane and loaded onto a flatbed truck on Monday morning (Nov. 25), NASA officials said. The capsule is headed for NASA's Plum Brook Station, where it will undergo extensive testing inside the world's largest vacuum chamber.
Testing is expected to last about two weeks, after which the Orion will be transported back to Kennedy Space Center, where technicians will begin integrating it with NASA's huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket ahead of the Artemis 1 mission.
More about NASA, orion capsule, Super Guppy, Boeing, space launch system
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