What’s an Alta Pod?

At my work area we recently received the Alta Pods for storage, because they were in the way in the Vehicle Assembly Building due to some major work on the building’s enormous doors. I was thinking about it the other day and I realized that most people have probably never even heard of an Alta Pod. So, I decided to share.

Up until about six or seven years ago, when the Orbiter vehicles were due for a major modification or down time for maintenance, they were shipped out to Palmdale, California atop a 747. The OMS (pronounced ‘ohms’) pods that I work on and the Forward Reaction Control System, or FRCS were removed before shipping, because this major maintenance was always performed at the facility I work in. So, when they shipped the orbiters, the ‘holes’ left from the removal of these components had to be covered, and needed to be aerodynamic as well as protective. What was used in place of the OMS pods were fiberglass mock-ups referred to as Alta Pods. They are even painted to resemble the real thing. There is a dummy FRCS module as well. Chances are they will not be used again, unless they are used to ferry one of the Orbiters to its final resting place at a museum if NASA decides to retain the pods as spares for other orbiters or something like that.

Here are some photos so you can see what I am talking about. First is a real OMS pod:

Then the Alta Pods:

And then the dummy FRCS.  Maybe it is called an Alta FRCS?  I believe I heard it also referred to as an Alta pod, though.

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