California Science Center officials Thursday will begin the process of reconfiguring the space shuttle Endeavour into a planned vertical display with two rocket boosters and an external fuel tank, marking the first time such a feat will have been performed with a shuttle outside of a NASA facility.
The shuttle has been on display horizontally at the Science Center for 11 years. But construction began last year on the center's $400 million Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will house the shuttle in the vertical launch position with the rocket boosters and fuel tank.
The new center is not expected to open until 2025, but Thursday will mark the beginning of a six-month "Go for Stack" process. The effort will begin with installation of "aft skirts," on which the solid rocket motors will be stacked to form the solid rocket boosters. After that, the effort will begin to lift the massive external fuel tank, known as ET-94, into vertical position, followed by the intricate lifting of the shuttle itself by a large crane to its new location and positioning into a 200-foot-tall vertical display.
"Endeavour will be the star attraction of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, a launchpad for creativity and innovation that will inspire future generations of scientists, engineers and explorers," Jeff Rudolph, president and CEO of the California Science Center, said in a statement. "We are grateful to be at this point in the construction of the new Air and Space Center, and thrilled to start `Go for Stack' on July 20 to commemorate Space Exploration Day."
The move means the space shuttle Endeavour will be unavailable for public viewing after Dec. 31. It will remain off-limits until the new Samuel Oschin center opens.
The 200,000-square-foot Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center in Exposition Park will nearly double the Science Center's educational exhibition space, officials said. The building will include three multi-level galleries, themed for air, space and shuttle. The new facility will also house an events and exhibit center that will house large-scale rotating exhibitions.
Science Center officials are continuing fundraising efforts for the construction project, with about $320 million raised so far for the $400 million project.