A NASA Railroad train crosses the railroad’s Jay Jay Railroad Bridge north of Launch Complex 39 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The train is on its way to the Florida East Coast Railway interchange in Titusville, Fla., where the train’s helium tank cars, a liquid oxygen tank car, and a liquid hydrogen dewar or tank car will be transferred for delivery to the SpaceX engine test complex outside McGregor, Texas. The helium tank cars are positioned in the front and rear of the train. The long, thin tank car in the middle was used for liquid hydrogen, followed by a much larger tank car used for liquid oxygen.
The railroad cars were needed in support of the Space Shuttle Program but currently are not in use by NASA following the completion of the program in 2011. Originally, the tankers belonged to the U.S. Bureau of Mines. At the peak of the shuttle program, there were approximately 30 cars in the fleet. About half the cars were returned to the bureau as launch activity diminished. Five tank cars are being loaned to SpaceX and repurposed to support their engine tests in Texas. Eight cars previously were shipped to California on loan to support the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Space Launch Complex-4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX already has three helium tank cars previously used for the shuttle program at Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/spacex. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann