(moved from Aviation)

The question Did the Space Shuttle boat tail used in the transport configuration save fuel? about the Shuttle boat tail prompted me to wonder how it was transported back to the west coast of the USA after shuttles had been piggybacked to Florida. I would assume it to be quite lightweight, but bulky. Would they have put it on a cargo plane, sent it via boat, or sent it on truck trailer? The rear of the shuttle shows to be 22 feet wide, so the boat tail of equivalent width would definitely take some care to send it via roads, if that's how they did it.

Also, as a followup question, how many boat tails were manufactured/used?

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    $\begingroup$ I recall, but cannot find anything to confirm, that it was flown via the Guppy $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    May 21, 2019 at 20:00

1 Answer 1


There were two tailcones. For a long time there was only one, but when Endeavour was built with a drag chute, it required a mod to accommodate that since the drag chute box was at the base of the vertical tail. The opportunity was taken to build a second tailcone.

The tailcones broke down into six pieces. They were shipped back to Dryden by truck. They weigh almost 6000 lbs (~2.7t) without the shipping containers.


Incidentally, I never heard them called boat-tails in ops. Boat-tail was reserved for the section of the Orbiter aft of the payload bay doors. We called them "tailcones" or "tail cones".

for example:

Late in the summer of 1976, Rockwell mounted three dummy SSMEs in the rearmost section of the orbiter (the “boattail"); the simulated SSMEs were fabricated by Rockwell’s Rocketdyne Division at Air Force Plant (AFP) 56 in CanogaPark, California.



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