Bone-Stock Tundra Pulls 150,000 Pound Space Shuttle

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Next time someone asks you what your Tundra can pull, tell them that a 2012 5.7L Tundra can pull a 150,000 pound space shuttle…without any modifications.

Tundra tow space shuttle

A bone-stock Toyota Tundra was used to tow the 150k pound space shuttle Endeavour across LA’s highway 405. Click for a larger image.

The Tundra pulled the 150k lbs space shuttle Endeavour across the Manchester Boulevard Bridge, which spans the 405 in L.A. …and it was bone-stock too.

Is That Tundra REALLY Bone Stock?

Unbelievably, yes. From Toyota:

The truck used to tow the Endeavour was purchased from a Southern California Toyota dealer, with no modifications or special equipment added for the tow.

If you think about a Tundra pulling a space shuttle in the same way that you think of a truck being pulled by “the world’s strongest man,” you know that the real trick to moving something heavy is getting the load rolling. Once the load is moving, keeping it moving doesn’t require as much effort. Therefore, a bone-stock truck can pull many times it’s own weight if you have:

  1. A special dolly (which you can see in the image below)
  2. A truck that can generate a very large force to get the load rolling
  3. A driveline that won’t break under the strain of a large force
Tundra space shuttle tow dolly

The Tundra pulled the shuttle using a special tow dolly that was built specifically for this task. Click for a larger image.

It goes without saying that a vehicle must be well-made to survive this task – massive tow loads put strain on every component in the driveline. If a gear is poorly made, a driveshaft is sub-standard, or a clutch pack doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, something breaks and you never leave the starting line.

Doing some back-of-the-envelope math, I calculated the normal force of the shuttle to be about 666 KN, and using a roling friction coefficient of .2 (which might be a touch high for this specialized dolly), the force of friction that the Tundra was pulling against across the bridge was about 30,000 lbs. This means the Tundra was likely maxed out after it got the shuttle rolling, to say nothing of the force it took to get the dolly moving.

As far as calculating the force needed to make the shuttle budge, the exact amount is dependent upon the static coefficient of friction. If we assume that it’s 0.6 (rubber tires on a concrete surface) than the Tundra needed to generate about 90,000 pounds of force to get the shuttle rolling. 90,000 pounds of pull!! …and these estimates could be low.

Is Tundra Towing Shuttle Un-American?

Is it Un-American for NASA to allow the Tundra to pull the shuttle? Not hardly. Click for a larger image.

Critics Argue That Allowing A Toyota To Pull The Shuttle is Un-American

Some critics have found Toyota’s role in pulling the shuttle to be objectionable, arguing that an “American” vehicle should be used to pull the shuttle across the bridge.

However, as we have often pointed out, the Tundra is one of the most “American” trucks on the road.

According to the 2012 “Most American Vehicles” rankings, the Tundra has the same amount of domestic content (75%) as the F-150, which makes it the 7th most American vehicle on their list and places the Tundra ahead of trucks offered by GM and Chrysler-Fiat. What’s more, the Tundra is assembled at a $1.5 billion dollar facility in San Antonio, TX, which employs thousands of workers.

If allowing the Tundra to pull the shuttle is “un-American,” allowing a Dodge or GM truck (which less a smaller percentage of domestic parts) to pull the shuttle would have been even worse. Perhaps an F150 would have been more “American,” but keep in mind that Toyota employs thousands of workers in California, and that the company has donated millions of dollars to the California Science Center (the final home of the Endeavour). So, it’s not as if Toyota doesn’t have some legitimate reasons to be involved here.

Regardless, seeing any half-ton truck pull a 150,000 pound space shuttle is an awesome feat of strength, and surely even the harshest critics can admit that the Tundra is a powerful truck.

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Filed Under: Featured VehiclesTundra News


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  1. AJ says:

    Impressive. I’d like to hear a close up of the tundra getting that thing rolling.

    • Ken says:

      Actually the tundra was probably in neutral the whole time, the shuttle carrier is self-propelled

      • Ken,

        Huh. That is an interesting way to view this.


      • LJC says:

        The shuttle carrier was not self-propelled during the Tundra pull. As a matter of fact, the weight of the shuttle and the self-propelled carrier would have exceeded the weight limit of the bridge.

      • Anonymous says:

        ummm your wrong my dad was the one driving the truck so yea i can promise you that it was not in neutral it was in drive ok so get your fact right. your just jealous because a ford or Chevrolet didn’t pull it.

        • Anonymous says:


        • Ron says:

          There is no way any 1/2 ton pick up truck can pull 292,500 pounds. Fact the max towing capacity of a V5 rated hitch is 16,000 pounds. The max trailer 2 5/16 ball is 30,000 pounds. The rolling load on flat ground exceeds the capacity of all none commercial trucks. A M1070 tractor Military Heavy Equipment Transporter moves the Abrams Main Battle tank has a max payload capacity of 64,000 kg’s. The space shuttle is 132,676 kg’s so if a truck specifically designed to pull extreme heavy load there is no way on earth that any half ton could pull 41X it’s weight.

          • Ron,

            Fact: It did. Video, media and many people witnessed it happening. While you can dispute the numbers as much as you want, it was witnessed by so many people and captured by many different video cameras. There is so much physical proof outweighing any conspiracy theory that the fact remains. It really did happen.


        • brandon says:

          a single man pulls twice the weight so big deal

    • LJC says:

      I agree! Equally impressive that is was done in front of most if not all of America to see, live! As I pointed out in an earlier post, this was gutsy!

      No editting, etc. would have covered up a failure.

  2. Mickey says:

    Nay sayers will always be there. Like mention 2 of the big 3 aren’t made in America. Also Ford had an issue with a certain company’s patent on the Ecoboost engine.

  3. LJC says:

    Entire load was 297,000 lbs I think, not the original 307,000.

    Awesome, you dug into your college physics book for the calculations! Only, 1 little problem with your calculations: you only accounted for the 150,000 lb weight of the shuttle; you didn’t include the weight of the trailer. Minus 7 points 😀

    Some consider it un-American? Well as you alluded to, there is no such thing as an all-American pickup truck. So whose fault is that? This question should be posed to the same critics. The fault for not having a true American truck falls into the hands of is the domestic brands Ford, GM and Dodge. Nobody forced them to ship jobs, etc. oversees.

    There’s no reason why Ford cannot donate money just as Toyota did. I would mention Chrysler and GM but the both of them were bailed out by our government, so they are excluded and not entitled.

    Finally, here’s another way to look at this: it was American engineering that pulled off this feat, not Chinese, Japanese, etc. Why can’t any of these superficial critics and superficial domestic truck cheerleaders see that?

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is America, Can’t we have an American made truck pull it?

  5. Luke says:

    Why don’t Americans think of such things, this would have been a great stunt for any of the big three but not today because Tundra pulled a space shuttle and American made trucks were sleeping again.

    • Luke,

      Re-read the article. Toyota is an American company with real American jobs. They also are big donors to the American science museum. The Big Three are so busy becoming a global company that they don’t invest that much in America anymore.


  6. Joe says:

    I have been waiting for Toyota to come up with a heavy duty (3/4 ton) Tundra so I can go camping with all the comfort in a truck camper and the confidence of taking a reliable truck on a long trip. I got sick and tired of waiting and hearing all the news about Toyota postponing the heavy duty Tundra indefinitely. I even wrote to Toyota about the Tundra’s lousy payload and all I heard was the company is sorry that Tundra is not meeting my expectation and my email is available for the Toyota engineers to review. I still do not fully understand why their engineers has such a difficult time to come up with a HD. The Ford F-150 has a heavy duty version with 3000 lbs payload. After this space shuttle publicity stunt, I think I am going to give the Tundra another challenge. I am going to buy the 1/2 ton Double Cab Tundra(payload 1600 lbs), load it with the lightest self-contained truck camper on the market (about 1800 lbs dry weight). With my wife, two kids and I weight in about 450 lbs, 30 gal of water at 250 lbs, 26 gal of gas at 150 lbs, 20 gal propane tank plus all other stuff at another 150 lb., the total weight is 2800 lbs. Does anyone think the 1/2 ton Tundra will be up to the task with no broken axles and suspension after a long trip? Will the lite truck camper come back with us? Do we need to drive at 5 mph all the time, just like pulling the space shuttle? Should we even attempt to do this? One Lance camper dealer claimed I can do it with the addition of air bag. The Lance Camper even feature their 1800 lbs lightest truck camper on a Tundra on their website.

    • Joe,

      I think we should remember that a big part of the Tundra being able to pull the shuttle was thanks to the specialty designed trailer. Plus, it was like you said a short ride. The driver later said that the Tundra had a little difficulty getting over the crown on the bridge (see:

      I guess I just won’t try it. It would probably void your warranty and you might end up with a very expensive wrecked pickup.

      We hear your frustration about the Tundra not having an HD version.


      • Joe says:

        Thanks, Tim. I have my doubt too about overloading the Tundra. I do not trust the camper dealer who told me the use of airbag will add several hundred lbs of payload capacity.

        In the Toyota’s video about tearing down and inspecting a Tundra after 100,000 miles of abuse on a Texas cattle ranch, the rancher was saying he used the Tundra as a 3/4 ton truck. It seems that Toyota is promoting the idea of exceeding the Tundra’s capacity posted on the door. I think Toyota should have a disclaimer on the Space Shuttle stunt performance: “Don’t try this at home. Never exceed the legal and safe capacity of the truck.” – Joe

        • Bo says:

          I have a tundra an it has over 100,000 miles an I have hauled a 3/4 ton ford an a car on a gooseneck trailer a hundred mile with no problems passing car on the highway an I bet I could pull u around all day with it to

        • Big Willy says:

          The Tundra obviously will pull a lot more than that. I have a tree service business and an 07 Tundra. It’s been used for 5 years to pull a 16″ trailer loaded down with equipment, trees and derbies. Example: Last weekend I hauled a load of 5″ stumps standing up packed in as tight as we could get em. These were the larger pieces of the trunks of 3 trees 30′ tall. Don’t know how much they weighed but I can tell you it was enough to bend the tongue of the trailer. The truck hauled ass 80 mph easy from Pleasanton, Tx (not too far from where it was built) to Austin, TX. This truck is a beast, has 115K miles and looks great! I replaced the breaks once, tires once, oil and filters regularly but no major parts or issues with this truck. A few weeks back I removed a large boat from a property filled with shingles nails and trash. The scale at the landfill said it weighed in at just over 2 tons. I know the stumps weighed more…. a lot more. Only thing I will say is that it has a lot of power so you have to be real careful when its wet. It does however have a great stability and traction control system.

  7. Mickey says:

    Joe, Ford should have done the same thing with the Raptor commercials since the Raptor frame bends from jumping the truck.

  8. Anonymous says:

    the american made trucks are not really amertican made you idiots get your facts straight dodge ram is made in canada chevy is made in mexico toyota tundra is made in texas

  9. Mickey says:

    Anonymous you might as well call Dodge a Fiat since they own them. Ford has come back with the new model year. Still the Tundra with over 80% american made parts is on top.

  10. All American Man says:

    I am 32 years old, born and raised in Mississippi. I believe in what this country was founded on… HARD WORK. I am an ASE master tech who makes a living pulling wrenches.

    Fact is, the powers at be in this country, especially the auto manufactures are more intent on filling their pockets than practicing what they “sell” on. The “American Revolution” of chevy is to take tax money, pay it back with more government tax money, and then move 70% of the company to China. GO GM! Ford is the only alternative out there for something like this.

    Compared to the the power of the Tundra, wich as stated by the facts of the other posts here is very American, Ford does fall a little short. I’ve driven all offered late model F150s, and offered Tundras within minutes of each other where I previously worked. There is no mistaking the difference in the greater power the Tundra.

    I’ve owned two Tacomas and have yet to own a better built vehicle than a Toyota. Remember that part of being American is being diverse.

  11. JohnT says:

    Proves how stupid Americans can be at times. Why should an American icon like the Space Shuttle be used to promote a foreign competitor’s pick-up? Any wonder why American jobs are flying out the door and going overseas? Anyone think Japan would EVER use an American vehicle, or anything else for that matter, in a similar capacity? No they wouldn’t. They NOT that stupid! But then the wealth must be spread by those who are hell-bent on seeing to it that America gets phucked. And don’t tell me about how American workers are used to build the Tundra. Those are workers who should be building American cars, but thanks to the long-lived program of wealth spreading, those workers are now building foreign cars.

    • Keep in mind that the big reason why the Tundra was chosen was due to Toyota’s philanthropy of the space museum in California. Without their support, that museum would be in need.

  12. retlaw says:

    When bought my 2008 5.7 often asked if they’d produce a heavy duty diesel production model…

  13. BV says:

    We were set on a Ford then researched and test drove the Ford, the Dodge Ram, and the Tundra. Once we drove the Tundra, there was no debate – – for the price, it is a superior product and made in America (Ford is mostly made in Mexico).
    Towing the Space Shuttle was just awesome.

    • Charlie says:

      This goes out to BV, TIM and THE AMERICAN MAN!

      T.A.M. Needs to look up Ford, It has more power and more torq available. Even the V6 comes in just shy of the Tundra on HP at 365hp to 381hp but beats the Tundra by 19 lb ft at 420lb ft- 401lb ft. Fords big V8 is 411hp-434lb ft.

      Ford is an American company, UNLIKE the Toyota which is in TOYOTA JAPAN! Ford is NOT “MOSTLY MADE IN MEXICO”. In fact the only cars or trucks I found to be made in MEXICO are the F650-750 and the Fusion, Focus, and Milan.

      While some of FORDS cars and trucks are made in other countries, they are NOT shipped to the USA. Like the ones made in Australia, Vietnam, South Africa, Turkey…

      If a Man can pull a train with his teeth, there is no reason to say a stock truck couldn’t do it. I never heard of the truck being looked at for non stock parks. Never heard of the dolly being looked at either. WHY?

      I for one (there’s many) call the BS card and just because a focus is made in Taiwan or Turkey doesn’t mean it is not an American car. FORD is here, in the USA. Owned by an American family since it started. Who owns Toyota? TOYODA!

      Where are the Tacoma 4dr.s made? OH YEAH!!!! Baja California, MEXICO! DERP, Toyoda has never sold more than 200,000 units of the Tacoma and looks to about a 110k avg of the Tunda. 4 of the last 13 years Toyoda Tundra did not even clear the 100k mark!

      So with all that said here is the data, to be hereby referred to as facts! Please look at FORDS imports for the market, then look at GM and Toyoda.

      Ford as NOT imported any for the US market, GM has. TOYODA HAS!

      I say, Let someone dissect the dolly, it was hydraulic and it had air brakes! This has been confirmed!

      • Charlie,

        It is always funny to me when I read comments like this. Really, you are yelling at a Toyota fan site about how bad Toyota is? Where is the logic in that? And don’t you have something better to do?

        I also find it amusing that the “Buy American” folks have changed their tune in recent years to “I know where the profits go.” As has been said many times by people way smarter than me – Ford, GM, Chrysler-Fiat, Toyota, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, etc… are all publicly traded, global companies. Why does that matter? Because the profit goes to everyone.

        Also, have you seen Detroit in the past 10 years? I was just there last month. It is a run-down hole of a city that is trying to desperately hold onto any semblance of the past. If the profits goes to Detroit, then surely Detroit shows that the Big 3 have been losing money for decades.

        On the controversy about the towing – I don’t understand your point. Has anyone EVER said that the other trucks couldn’t tow the space shuttle. Nope. We all know (maybe except for you) that the dolly played a massive role. Although, it would be really interesting to see all the other manufactures try the same thing. I would pay to see that.

        As far as your import discussion, I simply ask WTH? Toyota obviously is behind the others in importing and exporting. However, if you read this site at all, you will see Toyota is expanding its operation in the USA while other manufactures are spending a lot of money/time in Europe.

        You can bitch and moan all you want about how great Ford is/was, but you really are coming across as a sad, lonely teenager. Good grief.


        • Charlie says:

          Just proving you and the others in the cult wrong.

          Ahh, so now because its a public company it’s not American. Well, it is and unlike Toyoda Ford trucks have been made in the USA for a very long time. Right now they are made in KY. You and the others are so void of actual facts it’s disturbing, but then anything to inflate your 100k sales a year so you can feel better about buying from a company that sells more electric cars than trucks.

          My points are easy, they’re called facts. So, who is lonely when you apparently live here?

          • Funny, I’m in a cult. I think I need to get a shirt made that says that.

            Yep, publicly traded, global companies have worldwide headquarters and separate sales, engineering and production bases. Calling them an American company only is very simplistic and not very accurate.

            Toyota and Ford have built trucks in the U.S. for a long time, there is a no disputing that. GM and Chrysler used to until UAW practices drove them out.

            And yes, you are right. Toyota sells more electric cars than trucks.

            On your last point about me “living here,” I work here. Nice “facts.”


  14. bill says:

    I can’t see it being a big deal when we do not know all the facts. Like type of tires, pressure, surface. From my military days of computing rolling friction it could have been as little as 5,000 lbs pulled. A real test would have been to use Ford and Chevy on the route also.

    • Bill,

      Very much agreed. It would be interesting to see the Ford, GM Twins and the Ram do the same pull. Personally, I think a lot of people would like to see that. In the end it is really a great marketing piece for the Tundra.


  15. Stars&Stripes4Ever says:

    Props to Toyota for pulling this off and Congrats on a pretty epic marketing win. Sadly, like many here I wish one of the Big 3 would’ve been smart enough to make this commercial first. I’m pretty confident that any 1/2 ton truck on the market today could pull this without issue. The commercial does rub me the wrong way a little, I’d like to think that the US Government wouldn’t let a Japanese company pull something as symbolic as the Space Shuttle. Maybe I’m just overly patriotic. Cool video either way, hats off to whoever came up with this idea.

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