Space Shuttles, Lasers and Doomsday Bases: Amazing Payloads for 747s [Slide Show]

Ferrying space shuttles across the country is just one of the very odd jobs given to the workhorse jumbo jet
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In the event of nuclear catastrophe, top U.S. government officials will be able to manage the nation from “a highly survivable command, control and communications center,” says the U.S. Air Force: an E-4B aircraft known as the “Doomsday Plane.” The USAF maintains four E-4Bs, custom-fortified 747-200s, as National Airborne Operations Centers for the president, the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.....[ More ]


NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) carries a 2.5-meter telescope to 13,700 meters—an altitude that would make even the most seasoned mountaintop astronomer envious.....[ More ]


Oregon-based Evergreen International Aviation boasts that its Supertanker is “the largest aerial firefighting aircraft in the world.” A converted 747-100 cargo plane, it holds 75,000 liters of water or flame retardant.....[ More ]


The Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB), a modified 747-400 cargo plane, used a directed-energy weapon to destroy a ballistic missile in flight during a 2010 test. The plane’s nose turret featured a telescope that aimed a megawatt-class laser to heat a “boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure” within two minutes of launch, according to Boeing, the prime contractor for the U.S.....[ More ]


NASA has two 747-100s, originally built for passenger service, used to carry space shuttles across the country. Whenever a shuttle mission was diverted by poor weather to a landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, for instance, a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) would give the orbiter a piggyback ride back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.....[ More ]

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