March 12, 2024

Photo Gallery: The BelugaST delivers satellite for rocket launch


The beluga is an odd-looking whale found in the cold waters of the Arctic Circle. An aircraft that mimics the whale’s bulging forward attracts a lot of attention. It could become a more frequent visitor to North America after recently receiving operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration.

European aerospace manufacturer Airbus has commercialized the BelugaST super transporter it developed for internal shipping needs, creating a subsidiary dedicated to supporting third parties that need to move ultralarge shipments. 

On Monday afternoon, Airbus Beluga Transport delivered an Airbus-built Eutelsat E36D satellite to Orlando Sanford International Airport in central Florida. The satellite, housed in a large container, will be trucked to Kennedy Space Center for launch into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket later this month.

For a detailed look at how this plane could be used to support project logistics requirements for industries such as aerospace and oil and gas, see Monday’s story, “Airbus’ distinctive new airline is ready to haul whale-size loads.”

We are sharing some of the best images from Airbus Beluga Transport’s inaugural flight to the United States:

The BelugaST pulls back from the Airbus loading dock at Toulouse airport in France. (Photo: Airbus)

A special loader with a built-in rail system allows the BelugaST to be loaded from a high point, above the cockpit. The platform can be assembled and taken apart in one day, put in containers, and transported to another point. 

The nose-door of the Beluga freighter seen in a raised position to unload the satellite container, which will be slid onto the special cargo loading platform and then lifted off by crane. (Photo: Airbus)
The container is moved onto the custom-designed loading platform. (Photo: Airbus)
A full view of the BelugaST. (Photo: Airbus)
The container is fully removed from the aircraft on the special loader. (Photo: Airbus)
Airbus’ internal fleet is now using the BelugaXL, based on the larger A330 aircraft. (Photo: Airbus)

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

Twitter: @ericreports / LinkedIn: Eric Kulisch / [email protected]


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