Photography Magazine

Rockwell International OV-103 Discovery / NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (B747-100)

By Htam

@ Kennedy Space Center, FL

April 1990

The Space Shuttle Discovery is shown going through the demate process from the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) after a ferry flight from Edwards AFB, following a successful mission to place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. Four of these Mate-Demate Device (MDD) units were built: one at Edwards AFB, one at KSC, one at Vandenberg AFB and a portable unit.  Towering at a height of 105 feet, it measured 150 feet long and 93 feet wide with a lift capacity of 230,000 pounds, and engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds of up to 125 miles per hour. The first use of the MDD took place on Oct. 19, 1978.  Demolished in 2014, this was the last MDD to come down.

In 1974, NASA procured this 747-100 from American Airlines for use as a SCA. Flying with the additional drag and weight of the Orbiter imposed significant performance penalties. The range was reduced from 5,500 nautical miles to 1,000, requiring an SCA to stop several times to refuel on a transcontinental flight. Without the Orbiter, the SCA needed to carry ballast to balance out its center of gravity. This SCA is now on display with the mockup Space Shuttle “Independence” at Space Center Houston.

Olympus OM-1 w/Vivitar 28-85mm.

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