A landmark of NASA’s now-concluded Space Shuttle Program at Edwards Air Force Base for nearly four decades will become a pile of steel for recycling this month.
The Mate-Demate Device (MDD) at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards was used deservicing the shuttles after landing and to lift and position the orbiters atop NASA’s now-retired modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. After West Coast landings at Edwards, the orbiters were hoisted by the 110-foot tall gantry-like MDD and secured on the 747s for transport back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While a key monument to NASA Armstrong’s support of manned spaceflight is coming down, the center is building up new roles in support of the agency’s manned space missions, center director David McBride said during a recent on-site media briefing .
For example, NASA Armstrong successfully tested a pad launch abort system for the Orion Crew Module in 2010 from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, McBride said. The combined launch abort system and crew module will eventually be mounted on the top of the Space Launch System rocket that will launch from Kennedy. The build-up to that flight will begin in 2017.
In addition, NASA Armstrong manages the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program, which seeks to work with commercial companies, universities and government organizations to coordinate testing of innovative promising space technologies on flights using commercial suborbital flight platforms, including rockets, high-altitude balloons and aircraft.
NASA is also involved in supporting commercial development of a crew transport vehicle to replace the Russian Soyuz with an American space vehicle. The final three industry participants in the NASA Commercial Crew Program include The Boeing Company’s CST-100 spacecraft, the SPACE-X Dragon V2 capsule and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. Dream Chaser is expected to have a second free flight of its horizontal-landing lifting body engineering prototype at Armstrong late this year or in early 2015.
As the MDD was deemed to no longer be of value to NASA with the conclusion of space shuttle operations, the large steel and aluminum structure was slated for demolition. The MDD demolition work is being done by Pantano Demolition of Manteca, California under a $178,000 contract.
For more on NASA Armstrong’s Mate-Demate Device and its demolition, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/news/FactSheets/FS-014-DFRC.html