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Pegasus Barge

NASA

The Pegasus Barge departs NASA Stennis – Charles Nowlin/Stennis

The Pegasus Barge is a cargo transportation barge built for NASA in 1999 to ship the Space Shuttle’s external tanks to Florida for launch. Following the end of the Space Shuttle program, the barge was refurbished and lengthened for use in the SLS program, where it delivers the core stage and other components to Florida.

Pegasus was designed specifically to transport the large Space Shuttle external tanks (ET) from the factory in Louisiana to the launch site in Florida. First sailing in 1999, Pegasus continued in this role until 2011 when the program ended.

In 2014 the barge was assigned a new role in NASA’s new SLS program where it would transport the core stage, and other large components, to Florida for launch. The SLS core stage is longer than the Space Shuttle ET so the barge required a complete refurbishment and was extended from 260ft to 310ft. 

Since the refurbishment, the barge has made numerous trips to Florida carrying SLS components including the core stage for Artemis-1, which launched in November 2022. 

The Pegasus Barge sailing toward the NASA vertical assembly building in Florida – Jenny Hautmann

The Pegasus barge has no onboard propulsion and must be towed by a tugboat to reach its destination. The barge often travels on a variety of waterways including shallow rivers and open oceans. Pegasus has an accommodation area onboard for a number of NASA workers who crew the barge on journeys. 

During the Space Shuttle program, the Pegasus Barge was often towed by NASA recovery vessels Liberty Star and Freedom Star. The primary role of these two ships was to recover the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) but they also towed the barge and performed other roles for NASA as a cost-saving measure. 

Freedom Star towing the Pegasus Barge  – Cory Huston/NASA

Vital Statistics

Owner: NASA

Operator: NASA

Year Built: 1999 (Refurbished 2014)

Length: 94.4m

Width: 15.24m

Joined NASA Fleet: 1999

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