REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) – A piece of the Space Launch System (SLS) returned home to the Marshall Space Flight Center in a unique way on Wednesday.
The Orion Stage Adapter used for structural testing arrived back in Huntsville aboard NASA’s Super Guppy cargo plane to be placed in storage. The Super Guppy has been used to transport parts for NASA since 1961.
Super Guppy Program Director John Bakalyar flew in with the plane. He told News 19 that he takes pride in handling the historic plane, which also flew components of the Saturn V to Cape Canaveral in Florida during the Apollo program.
“The Super Guppy is unique because it has an oversized cargo bay and that’s why it looks the way it does. What that means is that we can get payloads up to 25 feet in diameter inside the aircraft,” Bakalyar explained.
The plane is also designed so the nose portion opens on a hinge a full 110 degrees. This allows crews to get parts in and out more easily.
The Orion Stage Adapter is 18 feet in diameter, making the Super Guppy tailor-made for the job.
Brent Gaddes is the lead for the Orion Stage Adapter, he said he is very proud of the work his team and the Super Guppy crew have done to bring the piece back home.
“It’s a relatively small piece of the rocket. It’s only about five feet tall but it connects the Space Launch System, which is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center, with the Orion spacecraft. So without it, it wouldn’t work,” Gaddes said. “This type of aircraft has supported NASA for years, so it’s really a great fit. The team that does this is awesome.”
The adapter is also designed to hold the housings for tiny satellites called CubeSats. On Artemis I, 10 of these CubeSats which have been created by teams across the country and the world to help advance our knowledge of what can be achieved in space will deploy from there.
One of those CubeSats is a winner of NASA’s CubeQuest Challenge. Naveen Vetcha is the manager of the challenge and he told News 19 that seeing it launch soon is very exciting.
“This is beyond my dreams. If you asked 20 years ago, we might say this was impossible to do but we are making the impossible a possibility,” Vetcha said.
Gaddes added the Guppy will be back in the future to transport the adapters for at least Artemis II and Artemis III which are currently being built.