Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
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.
• 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,
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 Air & Space • War, Cold.
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. T-38 Talon (within shouting distance of this marker); Main Engines (within shouting distance of this marker); External Tank (within shouting distance of this marker); U.S. Army/NASA Juno II (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); NASA / U.S. Geological Survey (about 300 feet away); U.S. Army PGM-11 Redstone (about 300 feet away); Pathfinder (about 400 feet away); U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas-F (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Huntsville.
Also see . . . U.S. Space & Rocket Center. (Submitted on September 26, 2016.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 16, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 26, 2016, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 369 times since then and 54 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.