Air International 1997-01
D.Baker - The Space Shuttle Orbiter (4)
Separation of the orbiter from its Boeing 747-100 carrier aircraft during one of the last air launched test flights in 1977 with the tail cone removed. To reduce drag, the tail cone is attached for all ferry flights.
Air launch drop tests were a critical part of qualifying the orbiter for flight operations and a converted American Airlines Boeing 747-100 was used to carry Enterprise to altitude. This aircraft is also used for ferrying orbiters between continental locations. A Northrop T-38 chase aircraft gives a measure of scale to the 747/orbiter combination.
NASA’s Grumman Gulfstream II Shuttle training aircraft allows steep glidescope angles of up to 22° during the approach phase, simulating the descent rate of an orbiter returning from space. Note the aerodynamic control surfaces under the wing, used to generate lateral forces.