Historic Markers Across Alabama


Marker ID:  
Location: 1 Tranquilty Base, Huntsville, AL
County: Madison
Coordinates: N 34° 42.63    W 086° 39.128
  34.7105    -86.65213333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Huntsville's Orbiter for NASA's Fleet

Pathfinder is a 75-ton simulator which was used to practice lifting and handling the real Orbiters. It was originally built at Marshall Space Flight Center in 1977 as a stand-in for Space Shuttle Enterprise to fit-check the roads and facilities that were to be used during the Mated Vertical Ground Vibration Test. In mid-1978, Pathfinder was shipped by barge to Kennedy Space Center where it was used to fit-check the Mate/Demate Device, the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) platforms. It was also used for ground crew training. In early 1979, Pathfinder was used to rehearse post landing procedures at the Kennedy Shuttle Landing Facility, allowing convoy operations to be accurately simulated. In late 1979, Pathfinder was returned to Marshall Space Flight Center.

After several years in storage, a group of Japanese businessmen expressed interest in obtaining a full-scale Orbiter model for the Great Space Exposition. The Japanese group agreed to pay Teledyne Brown Engineering to modify the Pathfinder to more costly resemble an actual Orbiter. Following display in Tokyo, Pathfinder was returned to Marshall Space Flight Center and was later brought to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for display.

Orbiter Data
Length: 120 ft.
Height: 47 ft.
Wing Span: 78 ft.
Weight: 153,000 lbs.
Crew Cabin Volume: 2,325 cu. ft.
Vehicle Attitude: 10 Degrees
Pathfinder Development: Marshall Center Test Laboratory
Teledyne Brown Engineering

End of Pathfinder