Historic Markers Across Alabama



Pathfinder Orbiter



Marker ID:  
Location: 1 Tranquilty Base, Huntsville, AL
County: Madison
Coordinates: N 34° 42.64    W 086° 39.197
  34.71066666    -86.65328333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None
 



Text:

Pathfinder Orbiter
Shuttle “Body Double”


Pathfinder is a test article of NASA Space Shuttle Orbiter, built by Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 1977 to practice lifting and handling the future Orbiter vehicles. Made of scrap rocket parts steel beams and wood, the mockup’s size, shape and weight initially close matched the Orbiter’s characteristics. It lacked engines and flight systems, as it was never intended to fly.

Pathfinder Specs
• Length: 120 ft (36.6 m)
• Height: 47 ft (14.3 m)
• Wingspan: 78 ft (23.8 m)
• Weight: 153,000 lbs (69, 399 kg)

A Major Makeover
When Pathfinder was first built, it had a plain, mostly white exterior. In 1982, after fulfilling its role for the Shuttle Program, it was lent to the American-Japan Society for their Great Space Shuttle Exposition in Tokyo. The Society hired Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. of Huntsville to overhaul Pathfinder so it looked nearly identical to the flown Orbiters, but was lighter and easier to transport.

The Shuttle Stack
Pathfinder now sits atop an authentic External Tank (ET) test article and two Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) models, to form the complete Space Shuttle stack. During launches of Shuttle missions, the SRBs provided severity percent of the thrust to lift the stack. The ET fueled the three Space Shuttle Main Engines, which supplied the rest of the required thrust. The SRBs and ETs were jettisoned after their fuel was depleted. Pathfinder now sits atop an authentic External Tank (ET) test article and two Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) models, to form the complete Space Shuttle stack. During launches of Shuttle missions, the SRBs provided severity percent of the thrust to lift the stack. The ET fueled the three Space Shuttle Main Engines, which supplied the rest of the required thrust. The SRBs and ETs were jettisoned after their fuel was depleted.







End of Pathfinder Orbiter