A NASA Railroad train passes in front of the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building, left, and the twin bays of the Orbiter Processing Facility, right, 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 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