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This Week in Dryden History:
Shuttle Booster Test Vehicle Mission Aborted
05.01.08
 
NASA Dryden's NB-52B mothership carries a Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Drop Test Vehicle in this 1977. NASA Dryden's NB-52B mothership carries a Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Drop Test Vehicle in this 1977 NASA photo. In early May 1978, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's famous NB-52B mothership aircraft encountered a problem while attempting to release a Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Drop Test Vehicle (SRB-DTV).

The test, the first full 'design limit test' (max load) of the SRB-DTV, had a hang-up; the 48,000-pound device failed to release from its hooks. Despite several attempts, the crew could not drop it, so the B-52 flew back to Edwards with the heavy test article still attached.

The late Roy Bryant, former NB-52B project manager, remembered the stress of the incident, noting that B-52 launch panel operator Ray Young reported that his lights indicated the hooks holding the vehicle had opened, even though the vehicle remained attached to the pylon. Pilot Fitz Fulton tried maneuvering the aircraft to free the stuck vehicle, but to no avail.

"There was a lot of concern that we'd damage the B-52 if it came loose on landing," Bryant recalled. Fulton greased the B-52 in for a really smooth landing, and the test vehicle held on.

NASA Dryden conducted Solid Rocket Booster parachute recovery systems tests with the Drop Test Vehicle from June 1977 through 1978 and again from September 1983 - March 1985. The tests validated the system to recover the space shuttle SRB casings once their propellant was exhausted after sending the shuttle well on its way to orbit.

 
 
By Gray Creech
NASA Dryden Public Affairs