Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Space Shuttle Enterprise

The Space Shuttle Enterprise, the only space shuttle that has never flown into space.

When NASA launched the shuttle program, they set out to create something revolutionary and never seen before, which required a huge amount of study and design.

Before building the first shuttles destined for space flight, a prototype shuttle was first built, later nicknamed Enterprise. This was built without engines and without a heat shield, so it couldn't fly into space.

The real revolution in the shuttle program was to reuse the same spacecraft, so the Enterprise was used to test the re-entry and landing phase, which had never been attempted before. The Enterprise was in fact transported in the high atmosphere attached above a Boeing 747, from which it was released to glide towards the airstrip. After five tests of this type that went perfectly, the Enterprise was tested in launch configuration, to test the stability of the two side boosters and the external tank.

In NASA's initial projects after the test period was over, the Enterprise would have to be converted into a shuttle suitable for space flight, but a cost analysis showed that it was cheaper to build one starting from zero. The Enterprise was then withdrawn from service and in 1985 became property of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington. After the closure of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the Enterprise was transported to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York where it is still on display today.

Credit: NASA. 

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