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Facts About Enterprise
Facts About Enterprise

Facts About Enterprise


The Space Shuttle Enterprise is the first space shuttle orbiter, and is a full-scale test vehicle used for flight tests in the atmosphere as well as tests on the ground. It was constructed as a prototype and is not capable of spaceflight.


Designated OV-101, for Orbiter Vehicle 101, the vehicle was rolled out of Rockwell's Air Force Plant 42, Site 1 Palmdale California assembly facility on September 17, 1976.


The shuttle is comprised of an aluminum airframe and body with some fiberglass features.  The payload bay doors are graphite epoxy composite, and the simulated thermal tiles are made of polyurethane foam, except for a few test samples of actual tiles.


Enterprise was originally to be named Constitution, but was eventually dubbed Enterprise after fans of the popular television show Star Trek started a write-in campaign urging then-President Gerald Ford to name the shuttle after the series’ famed starship.


On Jan. 31, 1977, Enterprise was transported to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base for a nine-month-long approach and landing test (ALT) program, which would demonstrate that the shuttle could fly in the atmosphere and land like an airplane without powered flight, like a glider.

The ALT program involved three ground taxi tests of the 747 shuttle carrier aircraft (SCA) with the Enterprise perched atop the SCA to measure structural loads and ground handling and braking qualities of the mated system.

Five unmanned captive flights of the Enterprise mated to the SCA with the shuttle’s systems inactivated were conducted to determine the structural integrity and performance handling characteristics of the combined aircraft.  Afterward, an astronaut crew operated the shuttle’s flight control systems while it remained mated to the SCA during the three manned captive flights that followed.

Five free flights were then conducted, during which the Enterprise separated from the SCA while an astronaut crew maneuvered it to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base. Two NASA astronaut crews, comprised of Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton and Joe Engle and Dick Truly, took turns flying the shuttle to free-flight landings.

For all of the captive flights and the first three free flights, Enterprise was outfitted with a tail cone covering its aft section to reduce aerodynamic drag and turbulence. The final two free flights were made without the tail cone, which is the spacecraft's configuration during an actual landing from Earth orbit.  


Following the ALT program, Enterprise was used for a variety of test programs, including vertical ground vibration tests and as a practice and launch complex fit-check verification tool for subsequent space orbiters.  It traveled atop its carrier aircraft to Europe in 1983 for the Paris Air Show, and returned to the United States for exhibition at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans.

In 1985, Enterprise was placed in storage moved to at the Smithsonian Institution’s facility at Dulles Airport in Virginia, where it was continued to be used for tests and evaluations. It was eventually placed on public display in November of 2003 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum near Washington, D.C.  In 2012, it was transferred to its new permanent home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.





Length (less tailcone):                                                                         122’

Length (with tailcone):                                                                        137’

Wingspan:                                                                                           78’

Height:                                                                                                            57’

Weight:                                                                                                150,000 lb

Flight Crew:                                                                                        Two

ALT Testing

Taxi Tests:                                                                                          02/15/77


Captive-Inactive Flights:                                                                    02/18/77






Captive-Active Flights:                                                                      06/18/77




Free Flights:                                                                                        08/12/77