Trucking company and NASA transport an astronomical load

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 5/1/2014

Parts of Highway 3 in Houston, Texas, were shut down earlier this week for reasons out of this world.

A Boeing 747 jumbo jet that has carried space shuttles across the country was transported from Space Center Houston to its new home at a space museum in Houston. The jet, also known as NASA 905, was disassembled into nine large pieces and hauled by six tractor-trailers for eight miles over two nights.

The total weight of the main cargo, the fuselage, was 132,000 pounds. Rather than use a 13-axle heavy-haul tractor-trailer, Palletized Trucking devised a more specialized technique for this extraordinary project.

According to Bubba Rouse of Palletized Trucking, “the delicate nature of the fuselage required special support saddles placed at precise locations, and the extreme length of the fuselage necessitated an extraordinary distance between those saddles.”

Due to the size of the load, the transport had to move no faster than walking speed. All-wheel steering and hydraulic lift capacity were crucial, considering the turns that had to be made during the journey.

In order for this massive job to be executed, a self-propelled modular transporter was used to haul the jet. For this particular project, the number of axles needed was not determined by the weight of the load. Rather, the Goldhofer trailer used was engineered to accommodate size. As a result, more axles were used than would typically be required. As noted by Rouse, the weight-per-tire ratio of the cargo was approximately half of the weight-per-tire ratio of a fully loaded school bus.

Although the move took only two nights to complete, hundreds of people were needed to plan, coordinate and safely execute the project. The successful transport was the result of several months of planning.

“We’re in our 45th year of business in Houston, the space exploration capital of the world, so this was a close-to-the-heart and momentous event for us all,” Rouse said.

After the jet was delivered, Boeing engineers reassembled the jet.

Once everything is complete, a mock-up of the Independence shuttle will sit on top of the jet at the museum. The six-story interactive museum will cost $12 million and is part of a 10-year expansion of the space museum.

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