Strange visitor, the Super Guppy, lands at Hanscom

A massive cargo aircraft known as the Super Guppy landed Tuesday at Hanscom Air Force Base to deliver a heat shield for the NASA spacecraft Orion.

The heat shield is in the area to have a protective coating known as Avcoat applied to it at Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, according to NASA. It will arrive at Textron on Wednesday, said Brandi Dean, a NASA spokeswoman.

Orion is NASA’s new spacecraft and is scheduled to take its first test flight next year, Dean said. The test flight will take Orion 3,600 miles into space or 15 times farther away from Earth than the International Space Station, Dean said.

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The protective coating being applied to the heat shield is designed to protect the spacecraft from surface temperatures expected to equal more than 4,000 degrees, Dean said.

The Super Guppy that transported the heat shield was acquired by NASA from the European Space Agency under an International Space Station barter agreement, according to a NASA website. The aircraft has a cargo compartment that is 25 feet tall, 25 feet wide, 111 feet long, and carries a maximum load of 26 tons.