The extraordinary NASA Super Guppy airplane once again soars through the skies

No uglier airplane has been manufactured in the history of aviation.

The extraordinary NASA Super Guppy airplane once again soars through the skies
Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

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Imagine the ugliest airplane your mind can create. Now, NASA has processed that image and made it a reality. This airplane is called Super Guppy, and it looks like a kind of chubby airplane, or a beluga dolphin. It’s truly outrageously ugly.


The extraordinary NASA Super Guppy airplane once again soared through the skies earlier this week, carrying a vital component that traveled to space as part of last year’s unmanned Artemis I lunar mission.

A video shared by NASA shows the Super Guppy arriving at Huntsville International Airport in Alabama on Monday, carrying the thermal shield that protected the Orion spacecraft during the Artemis I flight.

An airplane designed to transport space material

The airport’s account posted a message on Twitter describing the “unique visitor” as “always a sight to behold!”

The Super Guppy brought the thermal shield from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was later delivered to the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, about six kilometers away.

“Marshall technicians will use the center’s specialized milling tool to remove the outer layer of ablative material from the thermal shield, a protective coating called Avcoat, as part of routine post-flight analyses,” NASA said.

The Super Guppy could be deployed again as part of preparations for the Artemis II mission, which next year will take four astronauts on a flyby around the Moon.

The airplane, with its unusual appearance, was first used to transport sections of NASA’s Saturn V rocket in preparation for the Apollo missions five decades ago.

The original Guppy airplane, known as the Pregnant Guppy, was built in the 1960s by the now-defunct Aero Spacelines through the conversion of a Boeing Stratotanker refueling airplane.

In the mid-1960s, Aero Spacelines built the larger Super Guppy, which featured a cargo compartment with a diameter of 7.6 meters and a hinged nose that made loading easier.

The final version of the airplane, the Super Guppy Turbine, entered service in 1970

When the original NASA Super Guppy aged, NASA purchased a newer one in 1997 from Airbus, which had built two Super Guppy airplanes after obtaining the manufacturing rights from Aero Spacelines. The NASA Super Guppy is the only one that remains operational today.

“The physical constraints of railroad tunnels, narrow roads, low bridges, and power lines make ground transportation of this type of cargo extremely problematic, if not impossible,” NASA states on its website, adding that the Super Guppy provides a “practical and economical solution to these problems.”

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Journalist specialized in technology, entertainment and video games. Writing about what I'm passionate about (gadgets, games and movies) allows me to stay sane and wake up with a smile on my face when the alarm clock goes off. PS: this is not true 100% of the time.

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