ET-134 Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

This video montage shows space shuttle external tank ET-134’s arrival at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Watch this video (Windows, streaming)

At approximately 8:00 a.m. EDT on Oct. 24, NASA ship Liberty Star transferred Pegasus and ET-134 to tug boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott in Port Canaveral. After a four-hour trip along the calm waters of Port Canaveral channel and the Banana River, Pegasus and ET-134 arrived on dock at the turn basin in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where it was prepped and off-loaded.


Public affairs officer/blogger Steve Roy surveys the ocean ahead during the voyage of
Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 from Gulfport, Miss. to Kennedy Space Center.

ET-134 Rolls Off Pegasus on to Kennedy Space Center

2:11 p.m., Eastern, Oct. 24
ET-134 Rolls Off Pegasus on to Kennedy Space Center

Following arrival of Pegasus on dock at Kennedy Space Center, the Pegasus crew leveled the barge with the dock and opened the cargo doors, readying the vessel for an invasion of a small army of Kennedy-based technicians. These teams of United Space Alliance technicians from External Tank and Integration, Launch and Recovery Operations swarmed around ET-134, removing support stanchions, hydraulic lifts, and lowering ET’s transporter on to its four massive wheel assemblies.  

In the images above: ET-134 journeys into the Vehicle Assembly
Facility, where it will be readied for a February flight into space. Credit: NASA

ET-134, looking handsome and ready to fly, rolled on to Kennedy Space Center at exactly 2:11 p.m., continuing on to the distant Vehicle Assembly Building. Pegasus, its day not quite done, was towed back into the turn basin by the Lou Anna Guidry and WP Scott and began its final journey of the day to docks at Port Canaveral. Like Liberty Star, Pegasus will be pressed back into service to sail again very soon.
It’s been an amazing journey for all of us; hard-charging Liberty Star; obedient and protective Pegasus; eager to fly ET-134; and television producer Mick Speer and public affairs blogging Steve Roy, both proud to have served with the crew of Liberty Star and  Pegasus. 

The watch is now reporting … all is well.

Pegasus Arrives on Dock at KSC

12:41 p.m., Eastern Time
Pegasus Arrives on Dock at KSC

After a four hour trip from Port Canaveral to Kennedy Space Center (under observation by numerous alligators, dolphins, manatees and pelicans), Pegasus has arrived on dock at the turn basin in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). ET-134 is being prepared for immediate off load and move to the VAB. More later…

In the meantime, check out this this awesome video that just became available this morning. It shows Liberty Star on Day Two and day Three of the journey, under way in the central Gulf of Mexico after leaving Gulfport, Miss. The seas were rough, swelling to 12 feet, with high northeasterly winds with gusts up to 30 knots.

Liberty Star Transfers Pegasus and ET-134 to Tug Boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott in Port Canaveral

8:00 a.m. Eastern, Oct. 24
Liberty Star Transfers Pegasus and ET-134 to Tug Boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott in Port Canaveral

Pegasus is now under way in the calm waters of Port Canaveral channel enroute to the Banana River and eventually, the turn basin at the Kennedy Space Center near the Vehicle Assembly Building. Television producer Mick Speer and public affairs blogger Steve Roy negotiated, with excellent help from the crew on the tug boat WP Scott, the transfer to Pegasus without incident and without getting wet. The transit from Port Canaveral to the Vehicle Assembly Building will take approximately four hours. 

In the Port Canaveral channel crews of Pegasus and Liberty Star complete the
break of the tow in preparation for tug boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott to
move into position and begin the final leg of the trip to Kennedy Space Center.
Credit: NASA

As planned, after dropping the tow to the tugs, Liberty Star sailed off ahead of Pegasus, eager to prepare for the next mission.

The weather is beautiful this morning in the Cocoa Beach area as we progress thru the Port Canaveral locks. ET-134 looks sharp and ready to unload, perhaps even chomping at the bit.

The watch reports…all is well.

Liberty Star is in the Home Stretch

6:15 p.m., Eastern Time, Oct. 23
Captain’s Corner, Liberty Star

This evening Liberty is under way for home waters, currently just north of Ft. Pierce, Fla., making about 5 knots with quartering winds from the southeast. This speed permits arrival off Port Canaveral early tomorrow morning, at approximately 7 a.m., for a daylight transfer of the barge Pegasus and ET-134 to two commercial tugboats.

The tugs will tow/push Pegasus through the Port Canaveral channel to the Banana River, then north to the turn basin at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, Liberty Star will proceed on her own through the Port Canaveral channel to the Banana River and on to her dock at Hangar AF, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Today, we’ve shortened the tow cable from 1,800 feet to 300 feet, permitting safer transit in shallow waters along the remainder of the route.

The ship is in great shape, but has a lot of work to accomplish before getting under way on Monday to support the Ares 1-X Test Flight scheduled for Tuesday.

The crew of Liberty Star is eager to close home port and get ready for the next mission.

Mike Nicholas
M/V Liberty Star

Life Aboard Liberty Star

10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Oct. 23
On Board Liberty Star

Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 are well north of Miami, but moving north much slower than hoped. A much-hoped for pick up from the Gulf Stream has not occurred, apparently a very unusual occurrence for these trips north along the Florida coast.

Sail along with Liberty Star at sea! Windows, streaming

Scenes from a day at sea: looking at Pegasus from the weatherdeck of Liberty Star.
View all blog images in this Flickr gallery

 A new arrival time at Port Canaveral has been set for Saturday morning, Oct. 24,  7 a.m. Eastern Time. Liberty plans to sail to the eastern edge of the Port Canaveral channel, where it will rendezvous with two tug boats.The tugs will take up the tow/push of Pegasus for the final leg of the trip into and then north along the Banana River and channel to the dock at the turn basin in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. 

Scenes from a day at sea: Pegasus navigates swells. Credit: NASA

Unfortunately, the delay in return to home port will mean several members of the dedicated, hard-working crew will not have the opportunity to go home over the weekend before sailing Monday for recovery operations associated with the Ares 1-X test flight scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27. A wide variety of equipment, including Doppler radar and booster recovery gear, absent from Liberty during external tank towing operations, will have to be returned to the ship for installation.

Scenes from a day at sea: Libert Star’s crew pays out tow line. Credit: NASA

At this point in the trip Liberty, which sailed from home port with 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel, is down to about 13,000 gallons.  Engineer Trish Hershock has already placed an order to replenish the ship in readiness to sail Monday. Cook Dragan Jorkovic has already set his plans for replenishing the crew.

Newly promoted Second Mate Allan (Big Al) Gravina has just supervised on deck shortening the tow of Pegasus from 1,800 feet to about 500 feet. A shortened towing cable reduces the depth of the cable between the two vessels as Liberty moves into more shallow waters at slowed speeds, limiting the possibility of the tow snagging on unreported, underwater obstacles. The way the tow cable rides between the vessels, like a heavy kink of chains between two fence posts, is referred to as the catenary from the Latin word catena.

Scenes from a day at sea: Liberty Star and ocean skies. Credit: NASA

Sustainment of the crew continues at a heady pace. Cook Dragan providing tasty, wholesome, and comfortable field rations that every worried mother would appreciate, including more perfectly grilled New York strip steaks; mixed, steamed vegetables; homemade fish soup; crisp bacon and sausage; eggs Benedict; perfectly textured mashed potatoes; savory chunks of roasted pork smothered in piping hot gravy; mixed green salads with all the fixings and of course Balsamic vinaigrette; mixed fruit plates covered in strawberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, kiwi and pineapple; choice of three kinds of cheese cake; chocolate ice cream and, oh well — chocolate mousse covered in whip cream. Aarg!  Aarg! And Aarg!

Scenes from a day at sea: mornings clouds over the horizon. Credit: NASA

The bridge has just sighted St. Lucie Inlet! Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 are bearing north for homeport.

The watch reports — all is well.

Sailing With the Stars: International Space Station

Bringing ET-134 to Kennedy Space Center has one purpose; launch STS-130 to the International Space Station. NASA’s top priority today is to fly the space shuttle safely and complete construction of the space station. It’s been a long road getting from there to here!

International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Do yourself a favor one day and go to this website:

Scroll over to your right, then down to space station over flights of your town. Click and you’ll find yourself on a NASA Johnson Space Center Website. In the left column you’ll find a place to enter your country and find your home town and that’ll show you when the space station will overfly your town.

The over flight will be fast; and the time of day is important because space station is best viewed just before dawn or the beginning of morning nautical twilight and just after fading evening light or the ending of evening nautical twilight; perhaps the station will approach from the southwest, sail over your town in 2-5 minutes at 220 miles above you and depart to the Northeast. 

I hadn’t made an effort to see the station over fly Huntsville, Ala., for quite some time, until one day last year I studied the tracking charts, found that it would make a spectacular flight over Huntsville in a few days. That evening I hooked up my two bichons and went out to see the station. It was an amazing over flight. With ten-power binoculars I could detect a great deal of detail including that the space shuttle was docked, a gigantic spread of sail, or rather, solar arrays, and the space station had grown — big time — to the size of a football field.

Astronaut Nicole Stott, Expedition 20 flight engineer, participates in the STS-128
mission’s first session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance
continue on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
View all “Sailing With NASA” images in this Flickr gallery

When I joined NASA in 1991, I was immediately joined at the hip with space station. It has been part of my daily duties ever since in one public affairs capacity or another. The space station has evolved from development models and design charts to real hardware during the intervening years.  It is simply a marvel, flying through space at 17,000 miles per hour, brighter than the stars; so much so you might say it is a star…well, it is a Star!

Partnerships: Are Getting Us From There to Here
The space station is why we’re on this journey. We are bringing the gas tank, ET-134, for space shuttle mission STS-130, during which space shuttle Endeavour will deliver to space station Node 3, named Tranquility, the last of the three nodes built by our Italian and European space partners. 

The space station has been a dynamic and fruitful partnership for its members; including the United States represented by NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — I particularly like the title of the Japanese space agency because they have included the word “exploration.” The specific nations in the partnership have included Canada, Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and our very own United States.

Space station flight operations are controlled from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the station science command post is located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.  European Headquarters is in Paris; the Canadian Headquarters is in Saint-Hubert, Quebec; the Russian Station Mission Control is in Korolev, Russia; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency headquarters is in Tokyo, Japan.

By any stretch of the imagination space station has been an unqualified success in political, technological, engineering and scientific partnerships and is perhaps the greatest demonstration of peaceful human cooperation and achievement in history.  It is a testimony to what humanity can achieve in unity of purpose and peace; and a testimony to the role of space travel to bring together diverse peoples for common good.

An Exciting Time for the International Space Station
This year the spacefarers expanded the crew on space station from three to six and expanded the available working and living space.  Three space shuttle flights delivered Japan’s Kibo scientific research laboratory module, a supporting logistics module and a unique facility for mounting science experiments outside the Station. Also, in the past year a space shuttle delivered the Columbus science experiment module built by the European Space Agency. 

A close-up view of the unpiloted Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)
in the grasp of the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2. Credit: NASA

View all “Sailing With NASA” images in this Flickr gallery

The Russian Space Agency continues space station support by launching frequent logistics flights using their Progress automated rendezvous and docking vehicles. Russia also launches astronauts, cosmonauts and other visitors via their Soyuz launch vehicles.  Russia also maintains Soyuz vehicles on station for potential emergency evacuation.

There were two recent additions to the family of spacecraft arriving at the station this year as well. The European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) docked at station in March 2008 and just last month, in mid-September 2009, the H-II Transfer Vehicle of Japan successfully launched and arrived at the station. Both transfer vehicle arrivals mark a substantial increase in operational capability at a time when the shuttle program is due to be completed. 

A Time of Transition Ahead for Station
Up until now the emphasis of work on station has been directed at the assembly of arriving components such as nodes, solar arrays, and life support systems; and mastering the operational and engineering tasks necessary to keep the station properly functioning and maintained. 

Check out this great NASA website about the International Space Station:

On this site you will find a mountain of information about the station, including great image galleries, how to view the station as it passes over your town, many interactive features, tons of statistical information and my own favorite aspect of space station, science experiments on station. 

The transition that will gradually occur on station over the next few years will involve the transition from assembly activities to science.  Today there are some 96 science experiments on station encompassing almost every science discipline found on a university campus or at a national research laboratory. Indeed, NASA has officially designated the space station a national research laboratory open for business. Much of the science on station up to now has focused on study and analysis of how humans adjust to low levels of gravity and human physiology. Just a few months ago, in August 2009, space shuttle Discovery delivered the new Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR) and the Fluids Integration Rack (FIR). The MSRR will permit study of materials such as alloys, ceramics, crystals, polymers and glasses for new materials applications and ways to improve existing materials. The FIR will help add to our storehouse of knowledge about fluids under microgravity conditions and aid in development of better fuel tanks and water systems for spacecraft.

Science in space began gradually. The Gemini program astronauts and even the Apollo astronauts had precious little space in their spacecraft for experiments dedicated to science although they performed an impressive amount of science, regardless. The first American spacecraft dedicated to science in a substantial way was Skylab and later Russia added the Mir Space Station. Skylab was America’s first space station, it was fairly roomy compared to cramped Gemini and Apollo and Skylab hosted a vast array of science work.

Spacelab came after Skylab. Spacelab, planted in the cargo bay of the space shuttle, flew some 25 missions dedicated to science investigations. Twenty-one of these science missions were controlled from Marshall’s Payload Operations and Integration Center, while Johnson Space Center controlled the flight operations.

It may not be generally known but the European Space Agency designed the science facilities of Spacelab, the inner functioning and layout of the working module, while NASA provided the spacecraft, the shuttle, and many science experiments sponsored by universities, NASA centers and other government agencies. The partners of Spacelab learned a great deal from space-based science and how to control and operate experiments autonomously from ground stations located at universities or NASA centers. 

Unfortunately, the Spacelab missions had short durations, only 7-16 days. The promise of space station was to deliver a state-of-the-art orbiting laboratory and one that could function 24/7. 

And deliver it did. Today, scientists see their experiments launched into space and once the experiments are activated, scientists can control and collect data from those experiments from ground stations. Many experiments require direct astronaut involvement, but many do not, freeing the astronauts to perform their own science investigations and operate the station. The increase in the number of astronauts and experiment facilities on station will triple the number of hours dedicated to science in the next few years. And it’s not in 7-16 day increments — the duration of a space shuttle mission!! — it’s 24/7.

Just last month NASA published a report on the progress of science experiments on space station. The link to see the report highlighting science results from Station research experiments is below:

So there you have it. Long term it’s about utilization of space station for a growing array of science investigations that will enhance our knowledge of living and working in space while enhancing our knowledge of science for all of us on Earth. 

What’s ahead? The International Space Station will play a major role in getting us ready for the next big step, human exploration of the Solar System. It has been a long road getting us from there to here! Now we’re here!

Meet the Pegasus Crew

I’m getting to know the crew of the Pegasus barge now and sitting down to learn what it’s like to care for and voyage with the Very Important Passengers (VIPs) of these seaborne trips from Michoud Assembly Facility to Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

No, the VIP is not the blogging public affairs officer. The VIP is one of the most pampered, carefully assembled, machined, hand-crafted, and handsome external tanks ever built that fuel the space shuttle’s thirsty main engines. The VIP behind us on the deck of the Pegasus is ET-134.  This tank sails under the care of Pegasus’ four-person barge crew and in time, in early 2010, it will fly into space.  ET-134 voyages over the sea with Pegasus in good company.

Meet The Pegasus Crew

Richard J. Gager Jr., Boatswain, Lead Crewman on Pegasus

Boatswain Richard Gager (Rick), 52, was born in Newburgh, NY.  Newburgh is near the Intersection of Interstates 84 and 87 and just north of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on the Hudson.

He grew up in Houston Texas, graduated James Madison High and joined the U.S. Coast Guard right out of high school.

Richard retired after 20 years in the U.S Coast Guard as a Chief Boatswains Mate (E-7) with qualifications as Officer in Charge Ashore and Afloat , and as Under Way Officer of the Deck on board a U.S. Coast Guard harbor tug, the USCGC Capstan, three inland construction tenders; the USCGC Axe, USCGC Anvil, and USCGC Wedge. The Wedge was later converted to a river buoy tender where Rick served as the vessel’s Executive Petty Officer.

During his Coast Guard career, he served in Mobile, Ala.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Destin, Fla.; the Washington, D.C. area; New Orleans, La.; Demopolis, Ala.; and New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Also, Rick is a qualified Search & Rescue/Law Enforcement Boat Coxswain  and a graduate of the USCG Maritime Law Enforcement School. 

On board Pegasus, Rick is Lead Crewmen (Boatswain).

When not herding external tanks between Kennedy Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility, Rick likes riding his Harley with his wife and generally working around the house.

B. H. Conway, Able Bodied Seaman

Pegasus AB Seaman Bernard Conway (Skip), a native New Yorker, says he is tied at the hip to the sea.  His decades of waterborne work have not diminished his love of all things aquatic as he describes himself straight forward as “always a Long Island waterman at heart.”  In the early 1980’s he relocated from New England to the Space Coast in the fishing industry and eventually found him plying the waters of the Indian River Lagoon, with a ring-side seat of many spectacular shuttle launches.

Other opportunities and a growing family, led Skip to seize the chance to go “tugging” as a tanker man with a large fuel and barge business.

In 1997, he joined USA’s marine operations as a crewmember on board the Liberty Star’s sister ship the Freedom Star. Skip now finds himself assigned to the Pegasus, where he serves as an Able Bodied Seaman.

What does he like about the life at sea?  He replies, “the daily sunrises and settings never fail to thrill me.” Skip has an extensive collection of photos (including the elusive “green flash”) to prove it. What’s a green flash? Here’s what Wikipedia says:

“Green flashes and green rays are optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset or before sunrise, when a green spot is visible, usually for no more than a second or two, above the sun, or a green ray shoots up from the sunset point. Green flashes are actually a group of phenomena stemming from different causes, and some are more common than others. Green flashes can be observed from any altitude (even from an aircraft). They are usually seen at an unobstructed horizon, such as over the ocean, but are possible over cloud-tops and mountain-tops as well.”

Well! You do learn something every day!

Time away from work for Skip is mostly spent composing, recording, and performing his original music. 

David Harris, Pegasus Engineer

Dave is a unique member of the seafaring crew — he is a former U.S. Army paratrooper (1984-1988) with some 45 parachute jumps mostly from C-130 and C-141 Air Force transports and Army UH-1H Huey helicopters with the “All American,”  82nd Airborne Division.  Dave served as a small vehicle mechanic in the parachute rigger company of the 407th Supply and Transportation Battalion at Ft. Bragg, NC, Airborne!

Dave, 46, is a native of Toledo, Ohio and currently lives in Titusville, Fla., nearby the Kennedy Space Center. 

When asked how he transitioned from airborne operations to seaborne operations he said that after leaving the Army in 1988 he started in logistics operations at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center working with stacking Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) and in 1994 transitioned to marine operations as a SRB retrieval diver.

Today, Dave serves as the marine engineer of Pegasus with responsibilities for all mechanical and machinery operations. He assists with deck operations during external tank delivery operations and at home base assists with SRB disassembly technical support and SRB retrieval.

When not on the job Dave likes to, relax with family, play with his grandson and work around the house and yard. Airborne!

Jim Harrington, Ordinary Seaman

Let’s meet some more of the horsepower of the Pegasus. Jim Harrington, 51, was raised in Scotts Hill, Tennessee (population of 150). That’s halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Jim grew up with no running water or electricity and says about his early upbringing, “if you didn’t grow it or catch it, you didn’t eat!” Jim’s family later moved to the Chicago area, where he graduated from Crete-Monee High School in Crete, Ill. 

After high school Jim joined the U.S. Navy, ultimately serving in the submarine service for nine and one half years. Jim served on the submarine USS Thomas Alva Edison SSBN 610 & submarine USS Henry Clay SSBN 618, both were “boomers” or ballistic missile subs, as a Navigation Electronics Technician 1st Class.

While on shore duty and still in the Navy, stationed at the Naval Ordinance Test Unit Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, he enjoyed working in an electronics shop which permitted him to go to sea often with the naval test unit.

After serving in the Navy Jim joined the maritime operations team that services the NASA Solid Rocket Booster recovery ships, working for USA. 

Jim has now served 21 years in USA Marine Operations in a variety of jobs including retrieval diver, deck supervisor, and as crew member on Freedom Star and Liberty Star.

Currently working as a marine electrical technician, he holds marine credentials as a Qualified Member Engine Department, Junior Engineer and Ordinary Seaman. He supports Solid Rocket Booster Recovery operations, booster disassembly, external tank tow operations, and marine operations supporting NOAA and the Navy.

When not on the job, Jim enjoys boating, scuba diving, fishing, archery, hunting, being with family and Harley riding.

Dennis Loggins, Able Bodied Seaman

Dennis is not on this particular trip, but since he is regular member of the Pegasus crew he wants everyone to know the care and happy voyage of external tanks is his top working priority. 

Dennis, 35, is from Merritt Island, Fla., nearby the Kennedy Space Center. He has attended college at Seminole Community College and is currently completing coursework and licensing through the Maritime Professional Training Institute, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Twenty one years on the water on everything from commercial fishing vessels to working for cruise lines to dockside repairs and recreational sport fishing, has honed his maritime skills and increased his interests in the sea.

Dennis’ duties and responsibilities on board Pegasus are to maintain overall seaworthiness, handling lines, general maintenance and repairs, and making tow.

When asked what he likes about the seaborne life-style he said, “I truly enjoy the excitement and vastness of the open water.  I also enjoy the many opportunities to learn about and observe the sea made available by serving on these ships.” 

When not on the job as shepherd of external tanks to Kennedy Space Center, he likes to spend time hunting, fishing and time with his family.

Pegasus: The 'Winged Horse' of the Space Program

Transporting one of NASA’s external tanks from Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is no simple operation. The external tank, which is 153.8 ft long, 27.6 feet in diameter and weighs approximately 58,500 pounds, is transported via a specially designed and built, ocean-going barge. The barge, known as the Pegasus, is 266 ft long and 50 ft wide and is currently utilized by the Space Shuttle Program to transport external tanks over 900 miles of inland and open ocean waterways from the Michoud Assembly Facility to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For this trip external tank number 134 (ET-134) is our Very Important Passenger — a genuine VIP. 

Three seamen and one technician crew the barge 24/7 when underway from the barge’s regular mooring site near the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

In Greek mythology Pegasus is a winged horse, captured by and made to serve warrior Bellerophon. Among the many versions of Pegasus’ role and life there are two that seem to stand out. In one version Pegasus brings forth water or fresh springs where ever she steps. In another version Pegasus brings forth lightning or is the god of lightning. The role of NASA’s Pegasus seems to integrate both these mythological versions; NASA’s Pegasus lives, works and travels on water. And Pegasus delivers to the Kennedy Space Center the external tanks that feed the smoke and fire of a space shuttle launch; smoke, fire, thunder, and awe.

For many years the Pegasus, towed by the reusable solid rocket booster (RSRB) recovery ships, took the route through the Mississippi River — Gulf Outlet (MRGO) out to the Gulf of Mexico. Recently, MRGO was closed to larger ships due to significant shoaling and severe erosion caused by Hurricane Katrina. This route was utilized up through ET-128 and took approximately 4 -5 days for the barge to arrive on dock at Kennedy.

Today Pegasus is towed by two commercial tug boats along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) through the Mississippi Sound to Gulfport, Miss. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway route is approximately 25 miles longer, with one day added to the travel schedule.  Solid rocket booster recovery ship Liberty Star will meet Pegasus at Gulfport, take Pegasus in tow and depart south into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Pegasus is manned 24 hours a day from the time it leaves Kennedy, goes to MAF and returns to Kennedy. On average, a round trip takes between 10-11 days.  Once the last external tank is shipped, the barge will be utilized by Ares I Upper Stage which also plans to use the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway route.

Marshall Space Flight Center engineers developed the technical requirements for the Pegasus Barge, Halter Marine created the design and produced the drawings. Gulf Coast Fabricators of Pascagoula, Miss., constructed and completed the 1,648 ton Pegasus in June 1999. 

NASA has used many barges to transport large spacecraft components from their respective manufacturing sites to Kennedy. Other NASA barges including Orion, Poseidon, Little Lake, Palaemon, Pearl River, Promise and USNS Point Barrow were used to tow Saturn vehicle components between Marshall , MAF, California and Stennis Research Center to Kennedy in Florida. Of the older barges, only Poseidon remains docked at Stennis, awaiting final disposition.

A New Logistics System for the 'Right Stuff'

Hi everyone! We’re here at Michoud Assembly Facility waiting to sail with ET-134 to the Kennedy Space Center. Thought I’d share with you a little history about how NASA developed the logistics system to move and support all this heavy, outsized spacecraft hardware.

ET-134 moves inside the Pegasus covered barge at NASA’s Michoud Assembly
Facility. Credit: Lockheed Martin

When the space program kicked into high gear in the early 1960s the equipment necessary to move the very large components of spacecraft did not exist. In fact, the lack of necessary equipment almost became a limiting factor when preparing spacecraft designs and considering how to move them to launch sites, the primary location being Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

NASA used barges for transporting full-sized stages for the Saturn I, Saturn IB,
and Saturn V vehicles between the Marshall Space Flight Center; the  Michoud Assembly
Facility; the Mississippi Test Facility, now Stennis Space Center; and the Kennedy
Space Center. Credit: NASA

An agency-level logistics office was created at NASA Headquarters in Washington to orchestrate and coordinate a complex set of requirements based on a new and developing program, the Saturn/Apollo Program, and very geographically dispersed set of players, including various NASA centers, test sites, launch sites, suppliers, contractors, and manufacturers; an amazing challenge.

Spacecraft could be built, but now they had to be moved. In the early 1960s Marshall Space Flight Center developed its own logistics management office and began developing plans for a “fleet” of specialized transporters to move the “right stuff.”

Eventually, with assistance and vessels from the U.S. Navy, NASA developed its own ocean-going fleet of seven barges capable of transporting most of the components of the Saturn/Apollo program from home bases to Kennedy Space Center for launch operations.

Aerial view of NASA Dock at Michoud Assembly Facility with four barges, left to right,
Paleamon, Promise, Poseidon and Orion. The barges ferried Saturn IB and
Saturn V stages between the Marshall Space Center; the Michoud Assembly
Facility; the Mississippi Test Facility, now Stennis Space Center; and the
Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

A smaller fleet of two oversize and heavily modified aircraft known as the Super Guppy and the Pregnant Guppy were procured for movement by air of Saturn F-1 engines, lunar modules and S-IVB stages.

NASA’s B377SGT Super Guppy Turbine cargo aircraft touches down at Edwards
Air Force Base, Calif., June 11, 2000, to deliver the latest version of the X-38 flight
test vehicle to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Credit: NASA

Also, NASA made use of the railroads for moving Saturn propellants and even U.S. Army CH-47 helicopters to move large components from long distances for testing at Marshall.

The NASA Railroad train moves along the track through NASA Kennedy Space
Center’s Launch Complex 39 area. Behind the locomotive car is the Vehicle Assembly
Building. The train is hauling solid rocket booster segments from the STS-122
mission. After a mission, the spent boosters are recovered, cleaned, disassembled,
refurbished and reused. After hydrolasing the interior of each segment,
they are placed on flatbed trucks and individual booster segments are transferred
to a railhead located at the railroad yard. Credit: NASA

The Space Shuttle Program inherited significant experience and a well-oiled logistics machine from the Saturn Program. Shuttle components are moved by a wide variety of outsized transporters just as in the days of Saturn/Apollo. 

Today, components that make up the solid rocket motors (segments and aft exit cones) are transported cross-country via rail beginning in Utah where they are manufactured. With the help of multiple railroad companies, these components typically spend less than two weeks riding over the rail before arriving at the Kennedy Space Center. Once the components are offloaded, assembled, and ultimately flown in space, they are recovered, disassembled, inspected, and ultimately the segments are transported back to Utah on the same rail that brought them to Kennedy. At this stage in the process the hardware is refurbished and made ready for future flight opportunities.  Solid rocket booster components (forward assemblies, aft skirts) are manufactured at the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility at KSC and transported via ground support equipment over the Kennedy road system to the respective Kennedy facilities where these components are integrated with the solid rocket motor segments. Solid rocket booster hardware and solid rocket motor hardware, when integrated together, make up the space shuttle reusable solid rocket booster. Essentially, NASA is a railroad man as well.

Space shuttle solid rocket motor segments are transported cross-country via rail from
Utah, where they are manufactured, to the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Credit: NASA

External tanks such as ET-134, as you know already, move by barge and towing ship from New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center over water and space shuttle main engines move by truck. Some NASA equipment, such as specialized cargo or payloads for the International Space Station are moved by Super Guppy, stationed at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.   

The space shuttle orbiter flies everywhere it goes, except for short distances over ground at Kennedy. If the orbiter has to land away from Kennedy due to weather, such as at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., a special Boeing 747 pulls up and flies the orbiter back to Kennedy “piggy-back” style in just a few days.

Southern California’s high desert provides the backdrop as one of NASA’s two
modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft ferries Space Shuttle Atlantis back to the
Kennedy Space Center after departing NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center
at Edwards Air Force Base. Credit: NASA/J. Ross

Future space program hardware will likely make use of this same or similar means of transportation for movement from point of origin to the Kennedy Space Center for launch operations. 

Liberty Star’s mission to tow ET-134 to Kennedy is essentially part of a bigger NASA logistics operation.

It has been said that logistics is everything. It may be. You simply have to have the “right stuff” at the right place at the right time…to make a difference.