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speedbird2

Shuttle Tail Cones

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Regarding the Space Shuttles now displayed in museums, do they all have tail cones covering the engines? If so why aren't they removed to show the public the engines? I know the engines had to be protected during delivery flight. Also, if the Enterprise tail cone were removed, are there any engines at all? This prototype never actually flew on its own power but was really just a glider. Right now, visitors can view the Enterprise uncovered atop the Intrepid Flight Deck for a limited time as a new pavilion will be built soon.

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I visited the Enterprise at the Udvar-Hazy center, and it didn't have a tail cone in place. It has engine mock-ups.

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Discovery is not at Udvar-Hazy, and the engines are visible. There would be no point to putting the aerodynamic tail cone on. It was only used for transport on the SCA between sites.

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Endeavour does not have a tail cone covering the SSME's (she will be displayed as a full stack here within the next few years), Discovery does not, and I don't believe Atlantis will either, as she will be displayed with the payload bay open as if she is in orbit. Not entirely sure about Enterprise, though.I know the SSME's on Endeavour are replicas and not the real thing. They do have one real SSME displayed off to the side with her, though.

Edited by TomcatFanatic123

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Discovery IS at Udvar-Hazy actually. The flight orbiters (Endeavour, Atlantis, Discovery) all have "replica" engine bells on them made from decommissioned SSMEs. They were all used in the shuttle program at one time or another for flights until about 1998-99 when the more powerful block two engines were phased into service (with many of the older engines being upgraded). So the engine bells are technically real. But the rear engine compartments of the orbiters are empty and don't have the turbopumps back there. The OMS pods are also empty shells, but they were originally flight articles and still have their operational thermal protection system onboard. The vast majority of operational SSMEs from the shuttle program are kept in storage and it is planned to utilize them in the SLS launcher program until a non-reuseable variant is fully developed.

As for Enterprise, Intrepid wanted the shuttle displayed with the cone on since its engines are mockups and Enterprise did its first free flights with the tailcone installed anyway. I also imagine that the cone was kept when Intrepid decided on the idea to put Enterprise on the deck of the carrier under that inflatable dome (the one that Sandy managed to shread) since it would help keep corrosion control concerns to a minimum. Eventually, if Intrepid gets the funding, there are plans to build a land based museum near the carrier and Enterprise will be moved to it. But I don't know if it will keep the tail cone or not (it likely will though). BTW, Enterprise is also equipped with its original mockup ATDA OMS pods now as well. After the free flight tests, NASA removed the OMS pods from Enterprise and used them for ferry flights of other shuttles in place of the operational OMS pods (such as when shuttles were sent to and from Palmdale for refits since the OMS pods and forward RCS units are normally kept at KSC's hypergolic maintenance facility). When Enterprise was put on display in Udvar Hazy, it had different mockup OMS pods made. But these weren't rated for air travel and were replaced with Enterprise's original OMS pods prior to the ferry flight to New York.

Two tailcones were made for the shuttles. The second tail cone I believe will go on public display, but I don't know which museum is getting it.

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