DALLAS – Something big has landed at Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB): the Airbus BelugaST, one of the largest transport planes in the world.
The plane is expected to arrive at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) early tomorrow morning to deliver an Airbus-built satellite that is part of a key upcoming space mission.
This is a momentous event for Airbus as it is the first time the Beluga has returned to the United States and KSC in 15 years. In addition, when the Beluga arrives, another satellite built by Airbus will be placed atop a rocket that is expected to launch from KSC at midnight today.
The Airbus Beluga fleet has been operating successfully for over 20 years. The type was exclusively dedicated to transporting structures for Airbus aircraft.
Then, in December 2021, Airbus launched its cargo division using its fleet of A300-600STs, with its own air operator certificate (AOC) and staff, to offer a solution to non-standard cargo transport services in the whole world.
The launch of the general oversize air cargo service took place during the last week of the year, when Beluga “No. 3” delivered a new helicopter from the Airbus Helicopters manufacturing site in Marignane, France, halfway around the world to Kobe in Japan.
Along the way, the Beluga stopped to refuel at various transit points, including Warsaw (Poland), Novosibirsk (Russia) and Seoul (Korea). Notably, the entire helicopter could be housed inside the Beluga without any prior disassembly – just folding up its long rotor blades.
In late July, Brazil received the Airbus A300-600ST for the first time as it carried out its first cargo operation in the region carrying three helicopters.
Touchdown in Florida
Orlando Sanford International Airport was built as Naval Air Station Sanford, a Master Jet Base for carrier-based attack and reconnaissance aircraft, and was used by the US Navy until 1969. The distance between SFB and KSC is 39 miles.
Airlines companies will cover a press conference on Monday at 7 a.m. EST to learn more about the Beluga satellite mission and transport from Airbus executives.
If you’re in the Orlando area, grab your cameras and snap some footage of the BelugaST at SFB or tomorrow at KSC and share it with us on our social media, and we’ll update Monday’s coverage with the best shots !
For now, you can follow the journeys of the Airbus Beluga on Twitter @Airbus and @AirbusintheUS.
Featured Image: Airbus International Transport F-GSTD A300-600ST at Hawarden Airport, UK. Photo: Daniel Crawford/Airways