Expert Risk Articles

Bringing the Enterprise home to New York

As NASA's Space Shuttle program comes to a close, the shuttle that started it all has landed in a new home. The Enterprise, NASA’s original prototype orbiter from the 1970s, made its final voyage to become a permanent exhibit at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty was there from start to finish.

The space shuttle Enterprise, NASA’s original prototype and the first manned orbiter, played a pivotal role in space research as its successful flight and ground tests paved the way for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Enterprise was also used for extensive research following the Columbia accident in 2003, to ensure safe flights for sister shuttles Endeavour, Atlantis and Discovery.

When NASA discontinued the program in 2008, a race began among museums nationwide to acquire the remaining shuttle orbiters. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City was awarded Enterprise, to display on the flight deck of its World War II-era aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid, in New York where it is permanently docked on the Hudson River.

Allianz previously worked with the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, when it insured the Project Cargo of a Concorde airplane to New York in 2008.

Allianz insures the transport of the Space Shuttle Enterprise arriving in JFK airport in New York

The final voyage

The Enterprise, originally dubbed Constitution, was renamed after fans of the popular television series “Star Trek” started a write-in campaign to the then-President Gerald Ford to name the shuttle after the series’ famed starship. Having inspired millions of people when it first appeared, the whole world watched as Enterprise began her final voyage earlier this spring.

On April 27, 2012, the shuttle journeyed from Washington D.C.s Dulles International Airport atop a specially designed NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). Following an exciting low-altitude flyover of New York City, over 1,500 onlookers welcomed Enterprise’s arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

At JFK, the 150,000-pound shuttle was lifted from the SCA by two massive cranes with a specially-designed “spreader bar” and towed into a protective de-icing hangar, where it remained until Sunday, June 3, when a barge carrying Enterprise departed JFK for the last leg of the journey. On Wednesday, June 6, greeted by cheering crowds along the west side of Manhattan, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was successfully placed onto the flight deck of the Intrepid Museum.

The Enterprise Shuttle insured by Allianz on its way to its final destination on the Intrepid

Risk engineers from Allianz Risk Consulting (ARC) Marine worked closely with the museum’s project engineer to monitor the project lift-off in Washington D.C., through the arrival in New York City, to her final delivery aboard the Intrepid. Allianz also worked closely with long-term client Weeks Marine, who operated the barge that safely carried the shuttle to her final destination.

“This was a special project for us," commented Richard Lawson, ARC Marine Senior Risk Consultant. "The cooperation with the different parties involved was outstanding. We received excellent preparatory materials. Usually we need to dig a bit deeper in order to find all the information for a project.”

The real work for ARC Marine started when Enterprise was transported from its temporary home in the de-icing hangar to a near-water location at JFK where the shuttle was lifted onto a barge. Allianz teams worked six hours on the loading alone, as well as conducted a suitability survey and checked that the cranes doing the lifting were placed according to plan. They also accounted for wind, tidal conditions and shallow water along the coastline.

Transporting the Space Shuttle Enterprise is a highly complex undertaking that requires a lot of attention to detail

Weather and tides

Weather is always a factor in large transport projects, and the Enterprise move was no different. Though the team was faced with many challenges, such as high traffic on the Hudson River and a tight schedule due to the timing of favorable tides, the weather delay was the key element that threatened the transport from the beginning.

Despite the challenges, the move successfully proceeded with a fleet consisting of the shuttle barge, three tug boats and a US Coast Guard escort. The journey was the subject of great fanfare from the usually busy New Yorkers, as residents and visitors alike flocked to the waterfront to witness this historic event.

The Intrepid Museum has constructed a climate-controlled steel/fabric structure to protect the shuttle, which will become the centerpiece of an exciting new space exhibition. The Space Shuttle Pavilion opens to the public July 19, 2012.