Attachment of shuttle Atlantis atop the modified 747 carrier jet is underway at today at the gantry-like Mate-Demate Device structure. The orbiter has been hoisted up and the aircraft towed underneath Atlantis in preparation for the duo to be bolted together.This is so Atlantis can be ferried back to KSC after landing at Edwards last week.
In the past there's been some giggling when I've regaled you with stories of the Mate-Demate Device. But it's all true, and here's pictures to prove it. Note that NASA people sometimes have a sense of humor -- see the instructions on this mount point on a 747.
Rarely, a shuttle has to land in New Mexico. Do they have a MDD also? As of the end of 2006, apparently not:
"The concern out at White Sands is not with the runway facility, but with the turnaround," Shannon said. "We don't have the large mate-demate device that we use to lift up the orbiter and put it on the back fo the shuttle carrier aircraft (for transport back to Florida). Also, we don't have as much equipment there to service the vehicle. Basically, you power it down and wait for the calvary to arrive."
Just in case, two C-17 cargo jets were called up to ferry backup equipment from Kennedy to White Sands, including a purge unit to pump nitrogen gas through the shuttle's plumbing and a power system to run various heaters and other systems to defend against expected freezing weather Saturday night. Rocket nozzle covers also are being sent to keep out gypsum dust, which caused major contamination problems after Columbia landed at White Sands in 1982.