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Last Friday i.e. December 2, 2022, a National Airlines Boeing 747-400 freighter took off from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport with a stop in between, before landing at Marechal Cunha Machado International Airport in Brazil the next day. It took a long flight. That’s because this was no ordinary cargo flight, as the jumbo carrier was carrying a 15-ton hybrid rocket.

A special kind of cargo

Built by South Korean space startup INNOSPACE, this massive hybrid rocket recognized as HANBIT-TLV is also a little satellite launcher powered by a hybrid rocket engine. The initial test flight of HANBIT-TLV is scheduled for December at the Alcântara Launch Center in Brazil as part of a contract between InnoSpace and the Brazilian Department of Aerospace Science & Technology.

The agreement would ultimately see HANBIT-TLV initiation of the SISNAV, an inertial routing system project supported by the Financier of Studies & Projects of the Brazilian Government and the Brazilian Space Agency. The primary suborbital test flight of HANBIT-TLV will carry the SISNAV payload and assist confirm that it operates well in particular environments such as shaking, shock, & variable temperatures.

But, transporting the 15-tonne HANBIT-TLV would be pretty demanding, as the single-stage rocket stood at about 16.3 meters. With a width of 1 meter & a weight of 9.2 tons, INNOSPACE required finding a well-organized way of ferrying such a massive cargo shipment from South Korea to Brazil, so National Airlines came to mind.

The freighter that flew the journey

National Airlines flight N8 991 departed from Incheon International Airport at about 04:24Z & made its simple stop by landing at Dubai World Central International Airport at about 06:29Z. After that, N8 891 made the extended flight from Dubai to São Luís as it land at Marechal Airport at about 19:45Z. Operating the flight was one of National Airlines’ Boeing 747-400BCFs, recorded as N936CA & nicknamed ‘Lori.’

But before flying for National Airlines, the freighter had fairly a extended history as it was first rolled off the manufacturing line as a viable passenger aircraft for Japan Airlines in November 1991. The aircraft’s initial registration was JA8086, firstly configured to seat around 384 passengers in two lodge classes. But, the aircraft was withdrawn from use in September 2010 & was handed over to AerSale included the following month under number N238AS.

Bottom line

It’s not each day that cargo carriers such as National Airlines get to transport such specific shipments in the tummy of its Boeing 747 freighters, so flight N8 891 on December 2nd was certainly an extraordinary achievement for the airline. It was also an evenly imposing achievement for the aircraft, as there sure seems like there is about nothing the Boeing 747 cannot convey.