Talk:Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Black Side Down[edit]

I know it seems somewhat silly, but it does seem to be a real joke - different reports give different wording (Attatch/Place/Mount Orbiter Here...), but photos certainly exist and have turned up in reputable works - I don't have my copy to hand, but some poking suggests, there's one in Dennis Jenkins' book.

[1] is another picture - note different style and wording. I suspect the joke has been recreated a couple of different times, possibly on different bits of hardware. Shimgray | talk | 19:29, 14 November 2006 (UTC)

  • Yea, the Black Side Down part probably is a joke. The rest could just be overcautious warnings and such. The Place Orbiter Here image above is too small for me to read the lettering. -Fnlayson 05:50, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
is a transcription, or close enough. Shimgray | talk | 18:55, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Here's the image and entry in the article.

Orbiter Mount note image

  • The rear mounting point on N905NA is labeled for the absent minded installer, with an instruction to "Attach Orbiter Here" — clarified by the precautionary warning "Black Side Down".

It was removed and I'm not sure it should be in there. -Fnlayson 19:43, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

For the record, I've just checked - it is indeed in Jenkins' Space Shuttle (photo on pp. 197, third edition, 2001), credited to Tony Landis - photographed with an orbiter attatched and the text blown up for clarity, though it's just about readable unmagnified:
Same panel and (apparently) same strut, though possibly on the other aircraft or at a different point, so that's three sightings of the same gag, one cited in one of the definitive works. Just feel it best to make sure that if we do decide to remove it we don't do so under the misapprehension it's a hoax... Shimgray | talk | 23:42, 7 March 2007 (UTC)
Another image found, of the same style design and lettering as the one on wikipedia: --Vox Rationis (Talk | contribs) 01:22, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

Also, I think although it does not directly contribute to the topic itself, it does significantly contribute to the general lack of intelligence that seems to occasionally spawn out of NASA, somewhat like the error is metric/imperial units, that caused the crashing of the Mars Climate Orbiter.--Vox Rationis (Talk | contribs) 01:36, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

-So is there any info that would help us get the "Black side down" joke? Does it refer to some old mistake made by NASA technicians? Please, my head is puzzled over this one! (From what i have understand, this sign REALLY exists on the plane, but i think those who wrote it on the plane did it as a joke...i mean, the pictures are real!) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

    • Don't need info to get the black-side-down joke, just look at the's white on top, black on bottom. NASA technicians are actually quite known for their humor...I could show you other colorful additions on other NASA vehicles, but I would probably get hunted down and shot for it...ah, the joys and dangers of living in the Antelope Valley! AKRadeckiSpeaketh 22:38, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Looks like N911NA's joined the club. The bird was on static display at Wings Over Houston at EFD today. Saw the following on the side of the rear attach struts (on the outboard side of both of them):

Note: Place Orbiter
Black Side Down

I can provide photos if necessary...and if someone tells me where/how to post them - ASFalcon13, 02:39 23 October 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

The Black Side down thing is already covered in the article text and an image caption. That seems like enough coverage on it. -fnlayson (talk) 03:03, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Incorrect...the current version of the refers only to N905NA. N911NA has the markings now too. I uploaded my SCA photos to; note the five side windows on the upper deck (N911NA-specific). I can see the logic in not having two sentences, so I'll tailor the existing sentence so it refers to both aircraft. - ASFalcon13, 03:16 23 October 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
OK, the new wording seems fine. Source(s) for N911NA should be included. A source for both SCAs would be good. -fnlayson (talk) 03:30, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks! Sorry, I can only confirm N911NA (that was the only one at the airshow today). However, between my album and Fred's Airshow Journal (N905NA), that should be enough photographic evidence to cover both. - ASFalcon13, 03:34 23 October 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Cruising Speed unit problems[edit]

So, even [NASA's page on the SCA] says that the cruising speed is Mach 0.6, or 250 knots. This is impossible. Mach 0.6 is 397 knots, and 250 knots is Mach 0.38. Given that it's a 747, I'm going to presume that the mach 0.6 is correct, and I edited that section of the article to reflect that. However, it's difficult to really state categorically that's the situation, since our source is obviously wrong as well. Anyone have a better source? burnte (talk) 04:42, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

Definitely confusing. The actual line states "Airspeed limits with, and without an orbiter:" 250 knots or Mach 0.6. It's possible that 250 knots is the limit with the orbiter, and Mach 0.6 is the limit without it. Both figures seem very slow, so I agree we need to find some other sources. - BillCJ (talk) 04:56, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
I provided a source for the data that was there. Your 397 knots speed looks reasonable but should rounded. It could use a source or footnote explaining the calculation. -Fnlayson (talk) 04:58, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
BillJC, I read it that the cruising speed was the same for both, as the orbiter is fairly aerodynamic (relative to a brick). Further, the fact they give different units tells me it's all the same speed regardless of load.
Fnlayson, I realize you gave a source, but my point was only that all our sources seem to conflict with themselves. :) The calculation is fairly simple, Mach 0.6 is 0.6 times the speed of sound, which is 661 knots. 0.6 * 661 equals about 397. If you wish to round it to 400 I have no qulams with that. The fact remains, our sources are inaccurate in one way or another. Either it's Mach 0.6, or it's 250 knots, but I really can't believe it cruses at 250 knots. burnte (talk) 08:58, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
  • I'm aware how the Mach number works. The speed of sound depends on the air density which varies with altitude. Is that speed at sea level, 15,000 feet or other? -Fnlayson (talk) 12:45, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
Mach 0.6 at 35,000 feet is roughly 350 knots. It's quite possible "250" is a typo. - BillCJ (talk) 13:43, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
Or not. I found a back issue of Airpower magazine from May 1992. On page 24, in a photo caption, it states: "Due to airspeed limitations of the 747's struts and dual tip fins, SCA ferry flights are flown at 250 knots at altitudes between 13,000 and 17,000 feet." Now if we can just figure out where the Mach 0.6 came from . . . - BillCJ (talk) 14:22, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
I looked it up in the SCA Flight Manual SCA(N)-1 page 5-4. Limitations and Specifications configuration 3 (with shuttle loaded) Flaps Retracted Vmo 250KIAS and .6 Mach. Colputt (talk) 20:34, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Sources aren't conflicting; rather, it's about understanding the difference between indicated airspeed (IAS) and true airspeed (TAS). IAS is talked about as though it's a "speed", but it's really a measure of the dynamic pressure imparted on the aircraft. Dynamic pressure is a function of both TAS (the speed the airplane is moving through the air) and ambient pressure. So for a given altitude/pressure, if your TAS increases, so will your IAS. But let's say you hold your TAS constant, and start to climb. Since pressure decreases with altitude, your IAS will decrease too, even though you're moving the same speed through the air. If, instead, you hold IAS constant through the climb, your TAS will increase as your altitude increases.
The various forces acting on the aircraft - lift, drag, and so on - are all functions of dynamic pressure; IAS is also what's measured directly by the aircraft's pitot-static system. For these reasons, aircraft V speeds are given in IAS, not TAS. That includes Vmo.
Mach number, on the other hand, is a function of TAS (as well as temperature). If TAS increases, so does Mach number.
Per the SCA Flight Manual quoted by Colputt, Vmo is 250 KIAS - that's knots IAS, not TAS! - and Mmo (maximum operating Mach number) is 0.6. Those are two different limits, that apply to different regimes of flight. Allow me to demonstrate through a thought experiment:
Let's say our SCA is at sea level, and accelerates to 250 sea level, and at standard temperature (15C) and pressure (14.7psi), our TAS will be 250 KTAS as well. As others have pointed out, that's below 0.6M. However, if the airplane goes any faster, dynamic pressure will damage the airplane. At low altitude, 250 KIAS is the limit; it can't accelerate up to 0.6M without breaking something.
Next, let's assume the pilot decides to climb, holding a constant speed of 250 KIAS throughout the ascent. Since pressure is decreasing, the airplane's TAS is increasing, and so is the Mach number. Eventually, if the airplane climbs high enough, it'll reach an altitude where the TAS at 250 KIAS corresponds to a Mach number of 0.6. If the pilot decides to continue to climb above this altitude, he'll have to decrease the IAS below 250 KIAS, or the airplane will be at a TAS that exceeds the maximum operating Mach number of 0.6.
So there you have it: both numbers apply. At lower altitudes, the airplane's speed is limited by dynamic pressure effects to an IAS of 250 KIAS; above a certain altitude, the airplane's speed is limited by air compression and shock effects to a Mach number of 0.6. ASFalcon13 (talk) 04:26, 13 May 2016 (UTC)

Photoshopped image?[edit]

Orbiter Mount note reminding technicians how to connect the orbiter to the transport.

This image has been removed by an unregistered user saying it is photoshopped. Does anyone know this for sure?--PremKudvaTalk 05:18, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

It's real. Look at the section "Black Side Down" above, as well as searching for attach on the following page on the NASA website: NASA’s Innovators and Unsung Heroes. -- kenb215 talk 08:17, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Just out of interest, I (zeeeter) took the photo of the "in-joke" about the orbiter mount, while I attended the Edwards AFB open day. It's legit. Anyone need the original photograph for pixel by pixel analysis from which you can easily see any edits, along with several other photos I took of the vehicle and event are welcome to contact me directly. That plus the fact that this has clearly been photographed elsewhere should put this to bed hopefully! —Preceding unsigned comment added by Zeeeter (talkcontribs) 04:34, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

Shuttle retirement[edit]

I can't find any information about what will happen to the SCAs when the shuttle program ends. I found a mention of a proposal to use them as spare parts for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, but the source also says the plan fell through due to uncertainty in the shuttle retirement date. -- Cyrius| 06:10, 13 September 2009 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved. Self-reverted my WP:BOLD move. - The Bushranger One ping only 23:11, 21 December 2011 (UTC) The Bushranger One ping only 23:11, 21 December 2011 (UTC)

Boeing Shuttle Carrier AircraftShuttle Carrier AircraftWikipedia:Naming conventions (aircraft) states that there are exceptions to including the manufacturer name in page titles when the aircraft is very well known without it (for example, in the case of Concorde). This aircraft is far, far more commonly referred to as the "Shuttle Carrier Aircraft" than the "Boeing Shuttle Carrier Aircraft" (compare about 3,000 search results for "Boeing Shuttle Carrier Aircraft" to About 300,000 for "Shuttle Carrier Aircraft". I think WP:COMMONNAME clearly applies, and the exception in the naming conventions should be invoked. --W. D. Graham (previously GW) 08:57, 21 December 2011 (UTC)

Agree (weakly) - I didn't think much of the move to the current name, but I'm not worked up enough to actively work to move it back. But if someone else wants to I won't object. Rwessel (talk) 22:27, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

List of ferry flights[edit]

I believe this list is indeed relevant (and SCA flights were hardly "routine"), however it should be as a breakout page, not as part of this one, I think. - The Bushranger One ping only 19:47, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

I would not object to a separate page, but it's still not very relevant. We're also not listing which crawler transported each Shuttle to the pad, or detailing which barges transported Shuttle ETs or Saturn lower stages, or which Super Guppies transported S-IVB stages or ISS components. In any event the overlinking needs to be fixed. Rwessel (talk) 16:34, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps we should - but agreed on the overlinking. - The Bushranger One ping only 20:26, 17 August 2012 (UTC)


NASA Solicitation: NND13480656Q[edit]

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California issued a Synopsis/Solicitation: NND13480656Q for the assessment, removal and packing of JT9D-7J Engine before the end of the Fiscal Year, the document package can be found at:


Here is a text from the STATEMENT OF WORK (SOW) Dated 8/2/2013:

"JT9D-7J Engine Assessment Service Contract SOFIA B747-SP N747NA

- Background -

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) currently operates the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (DAOF) located in Palmdale, CA. The aircraft is a unique and highly modified Boeing 747SP which houses a large infrared telescope. The SOFIA program has a planned duration of at least 20 years. In order to ensure that enough usable spare engines are available to meet the program duration, NASA has a requirement to assess the condition of eight JT9D-7J engines currently installed on the two retired Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). One Boeing 747 SCA aircraft is located at the DAOF in Palmdale, CA and the other is located at Johnson Space Center, Ellington Field, Houston, TX. All assessments must be conducted at these locations.

- Aircraft Information -

Type Aircraft: Boeing 747

Engine Type: PW JT9D-7J

Location 1: Dryden Aircraft Operations, Palmdale CA

Location 2: Johnson Space Center, Houston TX

- 2.0 Objective -

Provide an assessment for airworthiness including time remaining of eight JT9D-7J aircraft engines. These engines are currently being used on the B747-100/200 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) and are required spares for the SOFIA B747SP aircraft...."

The contract is solicited, bidders respond, one is chosen, and work is done. Also, NASA sometimes issues a Synopses of Contract Award or Press Release. Any on-site pictures and reports from the engine testing and removal would be useful. Testing four engines is going to make a lot of noise for a few days.

Any comments before this is added to the Article SCA wiki page?

dond (talk) 20:33, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

It's somewhat marginal. It'ss a current event that'll be obsolete in a few months, and a the real engine disposition will be known. In any event, I presume you're intending to summarize this in a sentence or so? Rwessel (talk) 23:24, 22 September 2013 (UTC)