The iconic space shuttle Mate-Demate Device that has been a fixture at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base for the past 38 years is being dismantled, three years after the shuttle program ended and six years since it last supported turnaround operations after the last shuttle landing at Edwards.
One of only two such structures built, the MDD at NASA Armstrong is being dismantled by Pantano Demolition of Manteca, Calif., under a $178,700 contract. The firm plans to recycle as much of the steel used in the structure as possible for future reutilization.
The shuttle-specific MDD was reviewed for possible reuse for other potential project work, but no projects requiring its specialized capabilities were found. It is being dismantled / demolished in accordance with federal regulations regarding retention or demolition of unused federal facilities.
The 110-foot tall, gantry-like MDD structure was used for de-servicing the space shuttles after they landed at Edwards Air Force Base and for lifting and placing them on NASA’s modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for their ferry flights back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Constructed in 1976 at a cost of $1.7 million, the MDD was first used in 1977 for the prototype shuttle orbiter Enterprise’s approach and landing tests. It was last used for turnaround operations of the shuttle Discovery following its STS-128 mission that landed at Edwards in 2009. In total, it supported 59 shuttle landings over 32 years, five in the Approach and Landings Tests with the prototype shuttle Enterprise in 1977 and 54 orbital missions after their return from space.
Documents relating to the structure’s design and construction are being retained for historical reference, and several artifacts have been or will be removed from the Mate-Demate Device for display at museums or other historical exhibits.