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The WB-57 makes it in Snopes!

November 27th, 2006 by Sean Davis · 5 Comments

NASA’s WB-57F is a high altitude research aircraft that can fly to 60,000+ ft and has carried numerous scientific instrument packages over the years. Our research group’s involvement with this plane has been flying instruments for in situ cloud measurements during CRYSTAL-FACE, MidCiX, and most recently, PUMA.
Since the Columbia disaster in 2003, the WB-57 has been used as a “chase plane” for imaging the space shuttle launches with a special camera payload. During the most recent space shuttle launch (STS-115) on Sept. 9, 2006, the WB-57 “back-seater” took these pictures.

Apparently, these pictures are part of an email forward circulating around the net, which claims that they were taken from the International Space Station. Snopes correctly points out that these pictures are not taken from the ISS. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking that people thought these pictures were from the ISS… But I am delighted to know that people think these pictures are as amazing as I do, and are willing to take the time to press “Forward” and share with their friends.

Tags: shuttle

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Hank Roberts // Dec 6, 2006 at 1:30 am

    That ‘Special camera payload’ — it’s a huge nose-mounted camera — is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, I wonder if it changes the aircraft’s handling.

    It’s described as both visible and infrared — do you think they’ll be flying it trying to image the night launch planned for later this week?

  • 2 seand // Jan 23, 2007 at 12:02 am


    Yes! They most certainly did fly that camera in support of the night shuttle launch last December. I’ll see if I can get some pictures to post!

    And yes, as far as I am aware, the camera does increase turbulence around the aircraft body, which I assume changes the handling of the plane.


  • 3 seand // Jan 23, 2007 at 12:06 am

    BTW, Hank, You can see pictures of the WB-57 aircraft and camera payload here

  • 4 BDA // Jan 28, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Very cool! Did they build that sucker at Edwards?

  • 5 Sean Davis // Jan 28, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I’m not sure where they built it. I think this specific plane came from the Brits, but the heritage of the b-57 is from the US as I recall…

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