The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy, the largest airplane in NASA’s fleet, looked less like a plane and more like a Guppy fish. The bloated plane could carry an oversized cargo like no other aircraft of its time.
This super weird plane was not designed on a drawing board. Made from the fuselage of Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter, the Guppy is in fact, a patchwork of parts from different airplanes. Some of these parts come from vintage planes of the WWII. Aircraft salesman Lee Mansdorf and his friend Jack Conroy conceived the idea of Guppy in 1960 to provide logistic support to NASA’s space program.
Little known fact is that NASA would have never reached the moon by 1969 without the support of Guppy.
Previously, the Apollo rocket stages were shipped from California to Florida by boats traveling through the Panama Canal. The transport of components through ships added months to the timeline. Although airplanes that could carry the weight of the equipment were available; they were still not broad enough to fit the size. Thus, the Guppy came to the rescue. The Guppy fleet including the Pregnant Guppy 377PG and Super Guppy 377SGT-F held one of the largest payload capacities in the world. The first one flew in 1965 to assist NASA’s first space mission carrying incredibly large and delicate equipment. It has traveled over three million kilometers for all the space programs including Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab.
With a massive cargo, the guppy has a payload of 24000 Kg with a fuselage height and width of 8 meters. Even after 55 years, Guppy continues to be the preferred transport plane for NASA. Currently, the Super Guppy is used for transporting materials for Orion Space Exploration Mission. The first test flight of this mission is scheduled in 2018.
Here is a video of the Super Guppy taking off.
NASA is not the only one to use the Guppys though. Numerous other industries that require heavy shipping equipment still use the Guppy fleet.
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