NASA's Pegasus Barge Sails Again
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA's Pegasus barge, which transported space shuttle external tanks from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., during the space shuttle era, set sail Nov. 10 on a different mission.
Departing on a journey scheduled to be its last, Pegasus is delivering space shuttle main engine ground support equipment from Kennedy to NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., where both the barge and shuttle equipment will remain in storage until their specific future uses are determined.
The barge and equipment relocation are the responsibility of the Shuttle-Ares Transition Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. That office is charged with identifying propulsion hardware, property, facilities, records and artifacts associated with the 30-year Space Shuttle Program's property and determining whether it will be retained; donated to qualified U.S. institutions, public museums and libraries; or disposed. Some hardware is being preserved for use in the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift rocket program that has replaced the Ares program. Engineers at Marshall are leading design and development of the system for NASA. The rocket will carry the Orion spacecraft, crew, cargo, equipment and science experiments to space that will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.
"This represents an important milestone in our journey to transition space shuttle hardware to the Space Launch System program," said Roy Malone, manager of the Shuttle-Ares Transition Office at Marshall. "This hardware is important to the success of the new Space Launch System and we continue working to transition other shuttle hardware that will be needed by the new program," Malone added.
The shuttle main engine ground support equipment was used at Kennedy to install shuttle engines into the orbiters. The equipment, which will be used in the Space Launch System engine testing program, is being relocated to free up space at Kennedy for other purposes.
The Pegasus barge, which will remain in storage at Stennis, will be maintained by Marshall's Transportation and Logistics Engineering Office until its future use is determined.
Pegasus departed Kennedy manned by a crew of three seamen and one technician and towed by NASA's space shuttle solid rocket booster recovery ship Freedom Star. It is expected to arrive at Stennis on Nov. 16.
The 266-foot-long, 50-foot-wide Pegasus barge was specially designed and built for the 900-mile sea journey of inland and open ocean waterways between Michoud in New Orleans -- where shuttle external tanks were manufactured -- and Kennedy -- where the external tanks were attached to solid rocket boosters and orbiter for launch. The barge sailed 41 times and delivered 31 space shuttle external tanks -- ET-103, ET-105, ET-106, ET-108, ET-110, ET-111, ET-113 and ET-115 through ET-138 -- during its operational life between 1999 and 2011.
Pegasus was delivered to NASA in 1999, commissioned to replace the existing NASA barge Orion. After service with Pegasus began, NASA's other barge, Poseidon, also was retired. At the time of their respective retirements, both Orion and Poseidon were approaching the end of their useful lives without major refurbishment. Beginning in 2002, Pegasus became the only barge used to transport external tanks and is the only barge of its type remaining in NASA's inventory.
Both Orion and Poseidon were originally constructed in the 1940s to support America's World War II effort and were converted in the mid-1960s for use in NASA's Apollo Program when the Saturn rocket second stage, the S-II, manufactured in California, was shipped to the Mississippi Test Facility, now Stennis, via the Panama Canal. › Photo
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