Super Guppy

The physical limitations of railroad tunnels, narrow roads, low bridges, and power lines make overland shipment of oversized cargo extremely problematic, if not impossible. NASA’s Super Guppy offers a practical and economical solution to these problems.

The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy (SG) is a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft that is used for hauling outsized cargo components. It is the replacement for the Pregnant Guppy.

In 1961, California-based Aero Spaceline Industries built the first Guppy, the Pregnant Guppy. Built from a heavily modified KC-97 Stratotanker it was the largest cargo compartment on any aircraft.

At just over 19’ in diameter, this massive cavity was specifically designed to carry the second stage of a Saturn rocket for the Apollo program

The Pregnant Guppy cut the delivery time for oversized NASA cargo from 18-25 days by barge to 18 hours. In 1965, an even larger version, the Super Guppy came into service expanding to a 25′ diameter cargo bay. The new model had a more powerful engine, a pressurized cockpit, and a hinged nose for easier loading of cargo.

During its illustrious 32 years of service, the original Super Guppy flew over three million miles in support of NASA’s Apollo, Gemini, Skylab, and the International Space Station programs.

The Super Guppy Turbine is the last generation of Guppy aircraft ever produced and only four were ever made. The difference between it and its predecessor was the upgrade to more reliable and readily available Allison T-56 turboprops.

The Allison T56 is a single-shaft, modular design military turboprop with a 14-stage axial-flow compressor driven by a four-stage turbine. It was designed for the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport in 1954. Rolls Royce bought Allison in 1995.

The Super Guppies were operated by Airbus during the 70s-90s until they were retired to museums in 1997. NASA acquired SGT Number 4 to replace the aging Super Guppy under an International Space Station barter agreement with the European Space Alliance.

Crew: Four
Length: 143 ft 10 in
Wingspan: 156 ft 3 in
Height: 48 ft 6 in
Wing area: 1,964.6 ft²
Empty weight: 101,500 lb
Useful load: 54,500 lb

Max. takeoff weight: 170,000 lb
Powerplant: 4 × Allison 501-D22C turboprops, 4,680 hp each
Cargo bay dimensions: 111 ft × 25 ft × 25 ft
Maximum speed: 250 knots
Cruise speed: 220 knots
Range: 1,734 nm

Service ceiling: 25,000 ft
Wing loading: 86.5 lb/ft²
Power/mass: 9.08 lb/hp

The first flight was on August 31, 1965. Today the Super Guppy continues to be one of the only practical options for oversized cargo and stands ready to

encompass a bigger role in the future. The Super Guppy is the only airplane in the world that has carried a complete S-IVB stage, the third stage of the Saturn V rocket.


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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