Freakishly Large Cargo Plane Can Carry NASA’s Space Shuttle

Freakishly Large Cargo Plane Can Carry NASA’s Space Shuttle | Frontline Videos

Smithsonian Channel


Super Guppy.

The United States Space Program has some massive shuttles and transporting them is no easy task. Most aircraft are not capable of moving such large cargo so a new plane was designed for that purpose, the Super Guppy.

(Photo By Bill Peters/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Super Guppy is a custom-made transport plane used exclusively by NASA. This immense plane has transported space shuttles dating back to the 1960s and played a crucial role in the Space Race. Built from the fuselage of a C-97 Stratofreighter, engineers removed the original roof and added a ballooned ceiling to provide a suitable room for oversized cargo.

General Characteristics

  • Crew: Four
  • Length: 143 ft 10 in (43.84 m)
  • Wingspan: 156 ft 3 in (47.625 m)
  • Height: 48 ft 6 in (14.78 m)
  • Wing area: 1,964.6 ft² (182.51 m²)
  • Empty weight: 101,500 lb (46,039 kg)
  • Useful load: 54,500 lb (24,720 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 170,000 lb (77,110 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Allison 501-D22C turboprops, 4,680 hp (3,491 kW) each
  • Cargo bay dimensions: 111 ft × 25 ft × 25 ft (33.8 m × 7.62 m × 7.62 m)


  • Maximum speed: 250 knots (288 mph, 463 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 220 knots (253 mph, 407 km/h (economical cruise at 20,000 feet MSL))
  • Range: 1,734 nm (1,986 mi, 3,219 km)
  • Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (certificated ceiling) (7620 m)
  • Wing loading: 86.5 lb/ft² (422.5 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 9.08 lb/hp (5.52 kg/W)

“The Guppy is an amazing aircraft that’s been involved in nearly every part of the human space exploration in NASA’s history. From the Saturn rocket boosters in the 60s, it has moved parts Apollo, Hubble Telescope, the skylab. A lot of people don’t realize what it’s done in our national history.”

– David Elliott (Super Guppy Program Manager)

(Photo by: via Getty Images)

While there are planes that can carry more weight, the sheer volume of the plane is hard to match. In this video from the Smithsonian Channel, the Super Guppy gets a checkup before taking its first flight in eight months.


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