Case Study: Confidential Cargo

heavy haul services

When the European Space Agency said “bon voyage” to its European Service Module (ESM), the planning process to move the Orion test article from a remote NASA testing facility to Kennedy Space Center was already underway. Months before the move, NASA turned to Landstar Agent Jim Robinson who put his team at Specialized Transportation (STR) into motion to start coordinating the confidential move.

“We first established a relationship with NASA 10 years ago,” says Robinson. “We are their first phone call for big moves. That’s because they know we will provide the logistics solution with no margin for error, which is important when you are moving this type of freight.”

Before the move to Cape Canaveral, the test article, which is an essential piece of the space shuttle Orion, was tested for 16 months at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. Engineers from around the world conducted a series of tests that verified the structural integrity of the hardware to withstand a launch into space on top of a rocket.


Working closely with the customer, Robinson and his team developed a specific “customer tracking plan” for the haul. The plan called for the use of Landstar Connect® – a freight shipment mobile app that provides customers in-transit visibility of their load – as well as a second tracking technology from NASA. Robinson says the combination plan enabled the customer to watch their freight in real-time as it moved down the road.

“A lot of critical planning went into this,” says Robinson. “Working with NASA, we were able to give them a way to watch the load in real-time detail as it moved from one location to the next.”

Robinson turned to Landstar Million Mile Safe Driver Dennis Palmer, who is Arms Ammunition & Explosive (AA&E) qualified, to transport heavy-haul loads such as this one.

“We planned permitting through each state and had two to three escorts with the load. In some states,  we had police escorts as well. This load needed an experienced business capacity owner (BCO) who had previously dealt with a high-security, sensitive move,” says Robinson.

Robinson himself was uniquely qualified to keep a close eye on the Orion test article. In addition to being a Landstar agent, Robinson also is a business capacity owner and a certified escort driver.

“I was one of the escort drivers on this load. The customer knew I was with the cargo the entire time and that gave them peace of mind,” says Robinson.


“Whenever we have wide loads, I turn to Jim Robinson and the expertise of his agency,” says Freight Traffic Supervisor for NASA Sharon Lewis.

In March the Orion test article, extending 70 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16.8 feet high, was loaded onto Palmer’s three-axle, double-drop extendable trailer. Then, the confidential load was covered with a NASA tarp that read “Orion European Space Module,” and the secret was out.

“It definitely turned a lot of heads. This was a load you don’t forget. It was a privilege to be part of the whole process,” says Palmer.

1,200 miles and five days later, the load and its escorts arrived at Kennedy Space Center.

“The move went flawlessly,” says Lewis. “The coordination for this load was smooth, we received updates from the crew the entire time, until it was delivered to Kennedy Space Center.”