Mate-Demate Device

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Atlantis being mated in California

A Mate-Demate Device (MDD) is a specialized crane designed to lift a Space Shuttle orbiter onto and off of the back of a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Four Mate-Demate Devices were built.

Edwards Airforce Base MDD[edit]

The first MDD was located at Edwards Airforce Base in California 34°57′31″N 117°53′02″W / 34.958559°N 117.883818°W / 34.958559; -117.883818. Many Space Shuttle missions were not able to land in Florida due to bad weather. All but one (STS-3) of these flights landed at Edwards instead. This MDD was used to hoist a Space Shuttle orbiter onto a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for the flight back to Florida.[1]

Kennedy Space Center MDD[edit]

The Mate-Demate Device at the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.

The second MDD was located at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida 28°36′02″N 80°40′45″W / 28.600666°N 80.679262°W / 28.600666; -80.679262. Its primary use was unloading the orbiter after its cross-country flight from Edwards.

Orbiter Lifting Fixture[edit]

Model of the Mate-Demate Device at Vandenberg.

The third MDD was built for the planned Space Shuttle operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Upon cancellation of Vandenberg's shuttle program, the Orbiter Lifting Fixture (OLF) was disassembled and moved to USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale California where it was used during periodic orbiter refurbishments. This structure was demolished in 2008.[2]

Mobile MDD[edit]

Mobile Mate/Demate Device being attached to Enterprise

On the rare occasions when an orbiter needed to be loaded or unloaded at a location where no MDD was available, a pair of cranes was used instead. Prior to its use in 2012 to exchange Discovery and Enterprise, the mobile MDD had been stored for over twenty years.[3]

MDDs in USSR[edit]

For the Energia-Buran programme there was built similar structures in USSR, named PKU-50, PU-100 and PUA-100.

For the time of the Buran first flight they were operated at LII, Baikonur Jubilee airfield and Bezymyanka airport.

They were capable of loading Buran (0GT cargo) or Energia components (1GT, 2GT and 3GT cargoes) on top of Myasishchev VM-T and Antonov An-225 aircraft.



  1. ^ "NASA Dryden Fact Sheet - Shuttle Mate-Demate Device (MDD)". NASA. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Steven Siceloff (2011-08-04). "Teams Practice Lifting Shuttles at Airports". NASA. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  4. ^ (Russian) Vadim Lukashevich (1998–2007). "Transportation of the orbital ship Buran".