Best Shots of Last Space Shuttle Discovery Fly-By

Today, Space shuttle Discovery departed NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the last time with an early-morning takeoff atop NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). The agency’s most-flown shuttle is on its way to Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

The SCA transporting Discovery took off from Kennedy at 7 a.m. EDT, just as the first light dawned at the Shuttle Landing Facility. The ferry flight concluded at 11:05 a.m. when the aircraft touched down at Washington Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va.

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft took Discovery on one last aerial tour of Florida’s Space Coast. It also flew above the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Vehicle Assembly Building and Kennedy Press Site before making one more pass over the Shuttle Landing Facility on its way out of the area for the final time.


Space Shuttle Discovery Fly-By
Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

Space Shuttle Discovery Last Flight
Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
Space Shuttle flys over Florida Beach
Photo credit: NASA/R.D. Lee

The spacecraft’s retirement journey began with today’s ferry flight. It will then be removed from the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and relocated to the Udvar-Hazy Center on April 19.

Designated NASA 905, the aircraft carrying Discovery to Virginia is the same one that first delivered the spacecraft to Kennedy on Nov. 9, 1983. The aircraft is one of two modified 747 jets NASA used to ferry orbiters during the Space Shuttle Program.

Discovery flew 39 missions, more than any other vehicle in the fleet. Its 26-year spaceflight career began Aug. 30, 1984.

After its last mission, a “transition and retirement” phase began as the shuttle processing team worked to prepare the spacecraft for public display. Its main engines were removed and replaced with mock-ups, sparing the working engines for reuse in NASA’s under development Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. The spacecraft’s three power-plant fuel cells were drained and purged, and the forward reaction control system and orbital maneuvering system were sent off for cleaning at the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M., then reinstalled.



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