First Shuttle Captive-Carry Test

Thirty-five years ago today — February 18, 1977 — NASA conducted the first captive-carry flight test of the Space Shuttle program, with the prototype orbiter Enterprise atop the 747 carrier aircraft.

(Shuttle prototype Enterprise during one of the captive-carry tests. NASA image from Wikimedia Commons.)

After a series of taxi tests on the 15th, this was the first “inert” flight test of the approach and landing test program. The orbiter was powered down and no astronauts flew during this and the next four flights. The first “active” captive-carry flight took place on June 18, 1977, commanded by Apollo-13 lunar module pilot Fred Haise and piloted by Gordon Fullerton. Haise and Fullerton later flew the first glide test as well.

All of the shuttle flight tests took place at the Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards AFB. It was always cool to drive past Dryden on my way to and from the Rocket Lab, when we were stationed at Edwards in the late 80s.

If you want to see the Enterprise flight test vehicle, which has been on display for the last few years at the Udvar-Hazy annex to the National Air and Space Museum, it is supposed to be moved later this year to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York.

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