Historic shuttle carrier journeys home to Space Center Houston

Shuttle carrier aircraft (Courtesy: Space Center Houston)

HOUSTON (KXAN) — A historic shuttle carrier has started its journey home to Space Center Houston — an eight-mile trek over a two-day time period that has taken much preparation.

A 1,000-foot convoy carrying the nonprofit Space Center Houston’s historic shuttle carrier aircraft will head through the Bay area during Tuesday night — as it did Monday night — and arrive home early Wednesday morning.

The project to disassemble and safely transport the massive airplane was done in partnership with 30 private, public, and government organizations, many of whom did the work for little — or no — charge.

Moving at walking speed, the convoy will carry the disassembled Boeing 747 sections on six different trailers from Ellington Field.

The largest section moving intact is the fuselage: measuring 25 feet wide, 35 feet high and over 190 feet long. That’s roughly the height of Niagara Falls.

The fuselage will travel on a Goldhofer multiwheeled, self-propelled trailer, and roads will close so workers can dismantle streetlights, signs and utility poles as the convoy approaches.

The portion of Highway 3, also known as Old Galveston Road, between its intersections with Scarsdale and NASA Parkway closed 9 p.m. Monday to 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday night, NASA Parkway from Highway 3 to Saturn Lane will close from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Map of shuttle route
Map of shuttle route

Thanks to extensive preplanning efforts, no utilities are expected to be interrupted. The convoy will travel at night for the safety of neighbors and the workers involved in this complex transfer, as well as to minimize the impact on people in the area, the traveling public and businesses.

The Big Move route and timeline


  • Texas State Highway 3 from
    Scarsdale to NASA Parkway will close from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. the next day. The convoy will remain
    at the midpoint during the day.


  • NASA Parkway from Highway 3 to Saturn Lane will close from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. This leg is expected to be the most challenging due to a large overpass sign that will need to be lifted for the shuttle carrier aircraft.


  • The convoy arrives in the early morning, and the reassembly work begins.

How to move a 747 through city streets

The jumbo jet has been dismantled into seven major loads:

  • the fuselage
  • two wings
  • the vertical stabilizer
  • horizontal stabilizer
  • tail-cone sections
  • other assorted parts

Those are carried on four self-propelled trailers and three tractor-trailers. The convoy will be over 1,000 feet long when in motion.

  • The largest section to be moved intact is the fuselage. It measures 25 feet wide and 35 feet tall. The length of 190 feet
    is roughly the height of Niagara Falls, or as long as two NBA basketball courts.
  • Combined, the total mass of the shuttle carrier aircraft weighs 159 tons, roughly the same weight of 5,390 third-grade
  • It took 38 days to disassemble the plane and is expected to take 44 days to reassemble.

What’s next for the space shuttle carrier?

Next, the space shuttle replica Independence will be positioned on top and exhibits built to create an unprecedented, international icon celebrating NASA’s innovation in space exploration, according to the Space Center Houston’s website.

When it opens in 2015, the complex will stand over eight stories tall, and visitors will be able to enter both vessels to experience interactive educational exhibits.

Visitors will enter the shuttle while it is mounted in the ferry configuration over 60 feet off the ground — an experience Space Center officials say is unique in the world. The exhibit will explore the remarkable history of the shuttle program and how it is shaping current NASA initiatives to explore asteroids, the moon, Mars and beyond.

Many generous people and organizations have brought the project this far, but more help is still needed to complete the $12 million campaign for the exhibit. You can help by donating online to the nonprofit education foundation.

People also have the opttion of texting “Shuttle747” to 41444 to pledge a donation, or they can call Space
Center Houston’s Development Department at 281-283-7707.

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