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Rarely Seen Shuttle Pre-Flight Activities


Shuttle "Discovery":
Pre-Flight Activities, Rarely Seen by the General Public

Technology moves on, and these photos may soon follow the way of our other post: "Rare Photos of the Russian Buran Space Program". Can we say, it was good while it lasted?

However, these pictures deserve a wide viewing audience: the amount of thought and engineering that goes into every launch is immense; each successful take-off represents the Mankind's finest effort, and is a wonder to behold.
(Thanks to Tim for sending this in; images courtesy Christie L. Dyett - NASA Space Coast Launch Services.)

External tank arrives by barge from Louisiana:

External tank approaches Vertical Assembly Building (VAB):

Removing external tank:

Preparing to lift the tank to vertical:

Lifting the tank:

Solid rockets are attached:

Orbiter: External tank with Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB):

Engines are attached to the shuttle in the Orbiter Processing Facility:

Shuttle in sling ready for lift in VAB:

Shuttle has been moved to VAB and will be attached to external tank:

Shuttle is attached:

Payload Preparation in Space Station Processing Facility:

Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM):

Payload carrier leaves Canister Rotation Facility:

Payload being moved to Launch Pad:

Lifting payload into position for insertion into "Discovery"
when it arrives at the pad:

Shuttle "Discovery" leaves VAB:

Trip to launch:
Length - 3 1/2 mi
Time - 6-8 hours
Arrow indicates the Launch Pad.

Crawler Control:

"Discovery" arrives at Pad:

(image credit: NASA / Ken Thornsley)

Ready for Launch:

(image credit: NASA / Scott Andrews)

We Have Lift Off !

(image credit: NASA - click to enlarge)

Images courtesy Christie L. Dyett and Amanda Diller - NASA Space Coast Launch Services

Also Read "Rare Photos of the Russian Buran Space Program"!

Permanent Link...
Category: Technology,Space
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Anonymous Jim said...

Excellent series of pictures!

Blogger atlixco said...

geniales todos los post.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool.

But one question does the Shuttle actually lift off from the back of
the crawler?

Or does it launch from a separate pad that the crawler simply transports it to?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome photos.

I notice 438457650_81934df1c5.jpg and 438457714_76716def77.jpg both appear to have been censored. Each has a black rectangle, marked "Cargo package for ISS" and "New module for ISS" respectively. The black is solid and the rectangles are not in perspective with the rest of the photos, so apparently were added after the photo.

I wonder what NASA needs to keep hidden, and why?

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

these are just label left-overs from original slide presentation :)

Blogger livejamie said...

fantastic work

Anonymous jamie martin said...

fantastic post

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one nation made it this far-imagine the possibilities of the world nations united?

Anonymous Alex Toronto CANADA said...

Excellent exposition. I've always wandered how the craft was attached to the boosters and the pictures reveal all and show it to be rudimentary mechanics-hoist and attach. That must be one awesome crane to be able to heave that amount of dead weight all the way up there. The counter-weight must be huge. Engineering at its best.

Blogger curson said...

Impressive series of pictures, thank you for this "insight" not so commonly seen around ;)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The shuttle lifts off from the MLP (Mobile Launch Platform), which is the rectangular part the crawler is carrying. The crawler moves the platform into place, puts it down on fixed support legs and then moves to a parking position. The tower is a fixed installation for the Shuttle launches, but in the Apollo days, it was carried to the launch pad as well.

Blogger Jesse D said...

My dad works on the external fuel tank, and he's gone down river on the barge before. In a weird side note, on the barge, it's one big party and there's an entire walk-in freezer devoted to ice cream and a chef onboard on duty 24/7 to cook whatever your heart desires. LOL

Blogger Ben said...

I hadn't realised the tank was so big

Blogger adil said...

This is outstanding. I'venever imagined such gigantic efforts made to make it happen.

Hats off to theses people!!

Blogger Swami V said...

These are some of the greatest space-related pictures I've ever seen in my life. Thank you for posting.

Anonymous Phil said...

Ben, yes, the tank is huge. That's the price for using liquid hydrogen as rocket fuel.

Pound for pound, hydrogen is the most energetic fuel around. But it's bulky. One kilogram of water occupies one liter of volume. Liquid oxygen is a little heavier; each kilogram takes 0.89 liters. But H2O and LOX are like lead compared to liquid hydrogen; one kg needs 14.1 liters of tank space!

As big as the hydrogen tank is, the oxygen still weighs six times more.

Anonymous Ryan G said...

Thank you for this insight.

Anonymous Zany said...

Great collection of photos :D:D:D
Now, for some of the best Space Wallpapers, go to :

Anonymous Mick Russom said...

Disgusting waste of money. Saturn V was cheaper per pound to put stuff in LEO by a factor of 10. The space shuttle is pathetic, while the Soyuz keeps going up and down all the time, day in and out, the Shittle I mean shuttle, is basically rebuilt from top to bottom every launch, reusable my ass. What a piece of crap. Embarrassing. Too bad we cant resurrect Wernher von Braun to fix this pathetic mess.

Anonymous f1 said...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen these rarely seen pictures hundreds of times now. Just sayin'.


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