Enterprise and Me

Enterprise was NASA's prototype Orbiter used for initial drop testing and facility fit checks. She was originally planned to be converted into a space-worthy Orbiter but that never happened, I believe because she was built along the original, heavier lines of Columbia.

So I never had any operational experience with Enterprise, but I did encounter her once. She was being displayed around the world and made an appearance at the New Orleans World's Fair in 1984. My girlfriend (now wife) and I visited the Fair, and seeing her was a highlight.

(Not my picture)

That was about it for Enterprise and me until after the Challenger was destroyed in 1986. Many fixes and safety improvement were added to the program and we were quite busy simulating them in the SMS. One significant one was the addition of net-like barriers at each end of the shorter runways, especially the abort site runways.

The idea was tested by getting Enterprise out of storage and towing her into one of the barriers to see if it worked as expected. Twenty years on, she was still being used to test things.

The SMS visual system was a bit primitive then but we incorporated these barriers into the ground contact dynamics and visual models. The result was fondly referred to as "a ladder sitting on the runway."

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