Conroy Virtus: The Almost Space Shuttle Carrier that Could Have Been

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Conroy Virtus
Conroy Virtus

During the Space Shuttle program, witnessing a colossal Space Shuttle perched atop an airplane in transit was a common sight for many Americans. This critical transportation task eventually fell to specially modified Boeing 747s.

However, a far more outlandish design, the Conroy Virtus, nearly became the go-to solution. Envisioned by John Conroy of Turbo-Three Corporation, the Virtus would have resembled modern space carrier aircraft with its unconventional shape.

Two airplane fuselages, instead of one, would have been joined by a shared wing section, creating a spacious underbelly perfect for cradling the Space Shuttle.

Conroy Virtus
Conroy Virtus (Hazegrayart)

This audacious design mirrored Conroy’s prior work on the Aero Spacelines Pregnant Guppy and Super Guppy, two remarkably wide-bodied cargo planes known for their unconventional shapes.

During the development of the Space Shuttle program, NASA envisioned alternative methods for transporting the spacecraft besides the massive crawler-transporter we’re familiar with today.

One such proposal, the Virtus concept by Conroy, stands out for its sheer audacity. This design called for a colossal aircraft constructed from the extensively modified fuselages of two Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses.

Merging these iconic bombers would have resulted in a true behemoth capable of carrying the Space Shuttle not on the ground but through the sky.

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