When the space shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time today, it landed on Michelin tires. Throughout NASA's space shuttle program, Michelin North America Inc.'s Michelin Aircraft Tires division has been the sole manufacturer of space shuttle tires at its Norwood, N.C., aviation tire plant.
“It was a proud moment for Michelin and NASA to watch the close of the space shuttle era,” said Ron Olds, vice president of sales for Michelin Aircraft Tires. “The final landing closed a 30-year chapter in American history that showcased some of the greatest technological advancements spurred on by the American spirit. Every aspect of the shuttle program — down to the tires designed to dependably return the spacecraft safely to earth — is a tribute to the American ‘can do’ attitude.”
Michelin says the tires for the space shuttle undergo extreme conditions — from landing at speeds up to 288 mph to carrying loads as much as three times that of a Boeing 747 tire, which is the equivalent of a 40-car starting line-up at a NASCAR race.
The tires weigh 230 pounds each and tire take six hours to build. The space shuttle takes six tires — four main-landing gear and two nose-landing gear tires — to land. The shuttle tires are inflated up to 373 psi and use nitrogen, which best maintains pressure in varying altitudes and extreme temperatures.