Intrepid Minute: Enterprise ALT Testing

Hi, I’m Dina Ingersolle, aircraft restoration/Enterprise specialist, and this is an Intrepid Minute. While the space shuttle Enterprise never made it to orbit, its mission was indispensable for the future space shuttle program. The centerpiece of this mission were the
Approach and Landing Tests in 1977. This program was designed to test the functions and flight characteristics of the space shuttle as it reenters the earth’s atmosphere, glides back home
and lands on a runway. There were 16 tests in all. The first series tested the abilities of the shuttle carrier aircraft, or SCA. The SCA was a Boeing 747 modified to
carry the space shuttle on its back. The SCA would be needed to move the space shuttle back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida from one of several landing sites spread
across the United States The tail cone, fitted to Enterprise here, reduced drag on the space shuttle while it was attached to the SCA and makes flying with the shuttle attached, safer and more efficient. The final five approach and landing tests evaluated Enterprise’s ability to glide on its own, navigate to the landing area and land. During the first four free flight tests Enterprise flew
in the safest conditions possible with the tail cone attached and landing in a dry lakebed to give it lots of extra room to land. During the final test, ALT-16, Enterprise detached from the SCA
without its tail cone installed, glided to Edwards Air Force Base, and successfully landed on a runway. Enterprise completed a safe landing while
simulating all the conditions the rest of the space shuttle fleet would encounter while returning from space.

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