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Work continues on Endeavour placement into ‘launch’ position


Rocket motors moved from Lancaster to Exposition Park

Continuing the laborious process of moving the space shuttle Endeavour into a vertical, launch-ready display, work began this week to lift a pair of 52-ton solid rocket motors into upright position at the California Science Center.

The rocket motors arrived at the Science Center in mid-October after making a long freeway trip from the Mojave Air and Space Port north of Lancaster. They will ultimately be displayed upright with the shuttle and a massive external fuel tank, providing the centerpiece of the Science Center’s new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

The Endeavour has been on display horizontally at the Science Center since its arrival 11 years ago.

Science Center officials have dubbed the long process of moving the shuttle into vertical launch position “Go for Stack.’’ When completed, it will be the only vertical, launch-ready display of a retired space shuttle in the world.

The process began in July with installation of a pair of “aft skirts,’’ on which the rocket motors will be mounted and secured into place with hundreds of meticulously placed pins. On Tuesday, a 450-foot-tall crane will be employed to begin lifting the first of the two rocket motors into place.

Each of the motors is 116 feet long, 12 feet in diameter and weighs 104,000 pounds. The installation process was expected to be completed yesterday.

Following installation of the rocket motors, the next piece of the “Go for Stack’’ process will be lifting the external fuel tank, known as ET-94, into place. The final component will be the delicate move of the shuttle itself across Exposition Park and the use of a crane to lift it into its vertical display, which will tower 200 feet into the air. The Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center that will house the display will then be constructed around it, with an opening date not yet finalized.

Due to the moving and construction process, the space shuttle Endeavour will be removed from public display at the end of the day Dec. 31, meaning that will be the last day people will be able to see the shuttle in its current horizontal position.

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.