The space shuttle had to land at Edwards AFB in California last week due to weather, so they had to get it back to Florida via the piggy-back method. I watched it on CNN, and was struck by how cool it was. I’ve seen it before, of course, but you kind of take it for granted.
However, I found myself wondering if the 747 gets any extra lift from the wings on the shuttle. I know the drag and weight are a problem, but you do have two extra wing surfaces now, so do those help at all? With the shuttle on top, it’s like the world’s most expensive bi-plane.
The Wikipedia page for the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft had some interesting information:
Flying with the drag of the Orbiter imposes fuel and altitude penalties – the range is reduced to just over 1000 nautical miles (1900 km) compared to an unladen range of 5500 nautical miles (10,000 km), requiring a SCA to stop several times to refuel on a transcontinental flight
Wow, an 80% reduction in range and they can’t refuel in flight.
It takes a crew of about 170 a week to prepare the shuttle and SCA for flight, and each transcontinental trip costs about $1.7 million.
Still, I have no information on whether or not the wings of the shuttle provide the entire, two-vehicle apparatus with any net increase in lift. Opinions, anyone?