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Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
 

Pathfinder Orbiter

Shuttle “Body Double”

 
 
Pathfinder Orbiter Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Sandra Hughes, September 20, 2016
1. Pathfinder Orbiter Marker
Inscription.  
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,
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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.

(captions)
Below: A giant crane boosts the Space Shuttle Orbiter test article into MSFC’s Dynamic Test Stand, 1977.
Above: Prior to Teledyne Brown’s redesign effort, no one would have mistaken the low-fidelity Pathfinder for a real Orbiter.
Above: After stripping it down to its steel-l-beams, Teledyne Brown completely rebuilt Pathfinder to make its shape look more authentic.
Above: With the addition of painted details and other finishing touches. Pathfinder emerged looking a lot closer to an actual Orbiter.
Left: Pathfinder was put on permanent display at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center in 1988.
 
Topics. This historical
Pathfinder Orbiter image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Sandra Hughes, September 20, 2016
2. Pathfinder Orbiter
marker is listed in these topic lists: Air & SpaceWar, Cold. A significant historical year for this entry is 1977.
 
Location. 34° 42.64′ N, 86° 39.197′ W. Marker is in Huntsville, Alabama, in Madison County. Marker can be reached from Tranquility Base, half a mile west of Madison Pike, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Tranquility Base, Huntsville AL 35805, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Flight Span 30 Years (a few steps from this marker); Atlantis, OV-104 (within shouting distance of this marker); Discovery, OV-103 (within shouting distance of this marker); Astronaut Facts (within shouting distance of this marker); The Orbiter (within shouting distance of this marker); Seasoned Global Traveler (within shouting distance of this marker); T-38 Talon (within shouting distance of this marker); Main Engines (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Huntsville.
 
Also see . . .  U.S. Space & Rocket Center. (Submitted on September 26, 2016.)
 
Pathfinder Orbiter image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Sandra Hughes, September 20, 2016
3. Pathfinder Orbiter
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 9, 2024. It was originally submitted on September 26, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 609 times since then and 76 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 26, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Jul. 24, 2024