PHILADELPHIA, June 19 -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District issued the following news release:
NASA's Pegasus barge, which throughout the space shuttle era ferried shuttle external tanks and other hardware from NASA's manufacturing site in New Orleans to its Florida launch facilities, is about to cast off on a new mission as part of NASA's efforts to send humans to deep space.
Conrad Shipyard LLC of Morgan City, Louisiana, has been awarded an $8.5 million contract to refurbish the long-serving Pegasus craft, which will begin transporting rocket components for NASA's next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) between manufacturing, testing and launch locations.
NASA is collaborating in the barge's return to service with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers' Marine Design Center, headquartered in Philadelphia, which made the contract award May 14. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, maintains the barge for the agency.
"Pegasus made it possible for NASA to deliver numerous groundbreaking science missions to orbit and complete construction of the International Space Station," said Robert Rutherford, group lead for the Transportation and Logistics Engineering Office at Marshall.
"It's incredibly rewarding to know Pegasus will carry on its long tradition of service, supporting the nation's missions in space," Rutherford added.
The Pegasus, 260 feet long, 50 feet wide and 15 feet high, has been housed at NASA'sStennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, since 2011, when it completed its final space shuttle-related operation: delivering shuttle main engine ground support equipment to Stennis from NASA'sKennedy Space Center in Florida.
Previously, the barge sailed between NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the space shuttle external tanks were manufactured, and Kennedy, home to space shuttle launch operations for 30 years and the launch site for the Space Launch System's missions to future destinations including an asteroid and Mars.
Pegasus was specially designed and built for that 900-mile sea journey from the Louisiana shore to the eastern Florida coast, which includes both inland and open-ocean waterways. It made the trip 41 times between 1999 and 2011, delivering 31 space shuttle external tanks: ET-103, ET-105, ET-106, ET-108, ET-110, ET-111, ET-113 and ET-115 through ET-138.
Built to replace NASA's aging Poseidon and Orion barges -- both built in the 1940s to serve in World War II and converted in the 1960s for NASA's Apollo program -- Pegasus in 2002 became the sole means of transport for the shuttle external tanks. Today, it's the only barge of its kind in NASA's inventory.
What's ahead for Pegasus
To manage SLS hardware and components, dramatically larger than space shuttle propulsion elements, Conrad Shipyard is tasked with lengthening the barge from 260 feet to 310 feet. The company also will perform all necessary maintenance and refurbishment to ensure the restored vessel meets American Bureau of Shipping standards, including load line certification, or verification of the barge's legal loading limit to safely maintain buoyancy during water travel. The American Bureau of Shipping is a leading marine and offshore classification society which performs technical reviews, audits and surveys for seagoing vessel certification.
Bristol Harbor Group of Bristol, Rhode Island, in partnership with the Marine Design Center, will perform some of the architecture and engineering work for the barge modification.
Conrad will tow Pegasus from Stennis to the company's shipyard facilities in Amelia, Louisiana, where it will be drydocked during repair/refit operations.
Work is expected to be completed in early 2015, readying Pegasus to set sail once more.
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