TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.— The 60th Aerial Port Squadron and 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron assisted NASA and Lockheed Martin with offloading the Orion spacecraft heat shield for the Artemis IV mission from a NASA Super Guppy Nov. 8-10 at Moffett Federal Airfield, Sunnyvale, California.
“The purpose of this flight was to deliver the Orion heat shield for Artemis IV from where it is fabricated by Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado, to where it was offloaded and cured in Sunnyvale, California,” said John Bakalyar, NASA Super Guppy program manager. “This effort included coordination between Lockheed Martin, the NASA Orion Program team, NASA Super Guppy team and the USAF for K loader support.”
The joint force effort allowed the aircrew to move cargo that is unconventional to their everyday operations.
“This transport required a lot of attention to detail. The way the K loader approaches the Guppy, there was minimal room for error,” said Michael Echavarria, 60th Aerial Port Squadron motor vehicle operator and team lead for download. “Porters are the best in logistics and even if a new job seems overwhelming, I know my guys will get it done.”
Once the Super Guppy arrived, the APS and LRS Airmen positioned the K loader at the nose of the aircraft to safely load the heat shield, then transported it .5 miles to a Lockheed Martin facility.
“The support that NASA receives from APS and utilization of the K Loader greatly improves our mission effectiveness, said Bakalyar. “Air Force K Loaders are able to support cargo loading and offloading from the Super Guppy in situations where using NASA loading equipment is not feasible; the USAF K loader operators have always done an excellent job of adapting to our unique aircraft and operations.”
Once at the next location, a rigging team took over. It was lifted off the K loader with a crane, where Lockheed Martin technicians will cure the heat shield in a large autoclave.
The K loader will remain at Moffett Federal Airfield until the heat shield is ready to be transported again. The heat shield is currently scheduled to be loaded onto the Super Guppy December 2021.
“We look forward to coming back to see how NASA onloads the heat shield and to get an outside perspective on what others do differently to then implement new ideas in our shop,” said Echavarria.