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Orbiter Manufacturing and Assembly

The structures of the orbiter were manufactured at various companies under contract to Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division, Downey, Calif.

The upper and lower forward fuselage, crew compartment, forward reaction control system and aft fuselage were manufactured at Rockwell's Space Transportation Systems Division facility in Downey and were transported overland from Downey to Rockwell's Palmdale, Calif., assembly facility.

The midfuselage was manufactured by General Dynamics, San Diego, Calif., and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility.

The wings (including elevons) were manufactured by Grumman, Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y., and transported by ship from New York via the Panama Canal to Long Beach, Calif., and then transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility.

The vertical tail (including rudder/speed brake) were manufactured by Fairchild Republic, Farmingdale, Long Island, N.Y., and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility.

The payload bay doors were manufactured at Rockwell International's Tulsa, Okla., facility and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility.

The body flap was manufactured at Rockwell International's Columbus, Ohio, facility and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility.

The aft orbital maneuvering system/reaction control system pods were manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis, Mo., and transported by aircraft to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. They were also transported by aircraft from Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility to the Kennedy Space Center.

Approximately 250 major subcontractors supplied various systems and components to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility.

Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility is where all the individual parts, pieces and systems came together and were assembled and tested. Upon completion, the spacecraft was turned over to NASA for transport overland from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, California. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base is the site of the mate-demate facility for mating or demating the spacecraft and the shuttle carrier aircraft.

For mating atop the shuttle carrier aircraft, the orbiter is raised horizontally in the mate facility until the shuttle carrier aircraft can be towed under the orbiter. The orbiter is then lowered and attached to two aft and one forward attach points on the shuttle carrier aircraft. These attach points on the orbiter are the same attach points where the external tank is attached to the orbiter.

For ferry flights of the orbiters after delivery from Palmdale, dummy orbital maneuvering system/reaction control system pods were used along with a tail cone installed over the aft section of the orbiter to streamline airflow.

The space shuttle main engines were manufactured by Rockwell International's Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park, Calif. They are shipped separately from Rocketdyne to the National Space Technology Laboratories, then to the Kennedy Space Center.


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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