Last Shuttle Mission a Grand Finale for Michelin
For 30 years, since the Space Shuttle first entered service, Michelin North America has been a part of the programme. The tyre maker has been the exclusive supplier of the enormous tyres that rode on all five Shuttles, which have flown a total of 135 missions over 30 years. On July 8 the Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on its final mission from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. When it returns on July 20, Michelin will revert, for the time being at least, to solely supplying earthbound vehicles.
The Atlantis will touch down on Michelin Air tyres, a tyre line first introduced for the general aviation market in 1992. The Shuttle’s weight will be borne by four main landing gear tyres – 44.5×16.0-21, 34 ply, rated for speeds of 263 mph – and two nose landing gear tyres – 32×8.8, 20 ply, which are rated for speeds of 250 mph. All tyres fitted are, like most aircraft tyres, filled with nitrogen because of its stability at different altitudes and temperatures. Due to the extremely heavy loads, the Shuttle’s cross-ply tyres are inflated to 340 psi (main gear) and 300 psi (nose gear).The main landing gear shuttle tyres are only used once, and the nose landing gear tyres are used for two landings.
After landing, the three remaining Space Shuttles will be decommissioned and enter retirement as museum displays.