How 'space ready' was space shuttle prototype Enterprise?

Space Exploration Asked on September 28, 2021

I have long believed that Enterprise was just an empty craft, with only the instruments to operate in shorts flights in the atmosphere.
Basically a large glider with odd wings.

However, I have been seeing Enterprise referred to as not space-rated or space-ready, and sometimes as an ‘orbiter’. (For example Space Shuttle Orbiter Approach and Landing Test: Final Evaluation Report that is linked in @OrganicMarble’s answer calls it "Orbiter 101" a few times)

This makes it seem like Enterprise was actually a complete Space Shuttle, but missing some testing or without a few required space elements.

How much of a prototype actually was Enterprise?

It apparently did not have engines, but the other shuttles also needed to refurbish the engines after each flight.

One Answer

Your belief was pretty correct.

Major systems missing on Enterprise:

  • orbital manuvering system
  • reaction control system
  • main propulsion system
  • space radiators
  • airlock
  • star trackers
  • thermal protection system (tiles)
  • cryogenic tankage for fuel cell reactants
  • payload bay payload mounting hardware
  • galley
  • aft and overhead windows
  • Ku-band antenna

Major systems different on Enterprise:

  • hydraulics
  • electrical
  • thermal control
  • cockpit controls and displays
  • structure
  • communications

Enterprise-only systems

  • nose-mounted air data probe
  • high pressure tankage for fuel cell reactants
  • flight test instrumentation
  • umbilical to 747 mothership
  • tracking beacons
  • ram air scoop

She was intended only for testing the final stages of aeroflight1 so had only systems required for that installed.

1 The original plan was to convert her into a spaceworthy orbiter by adding the missing systems but it ended up being too expensive, largely because of structural design changes to the wings, mid-fuselage, and thrust structure. Challenger was built out of the structural test article instead.

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Correct answer by Organic Marble on September 28, 2021

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