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California Science Center GO For Shuttle Endeavour Stacking

The iconic space shuttle Endeavour is set to embark on its final journey to its permanent home at a new building in Los Angeles.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Thu Jul 06 2023Written by Zac Aubert

After more than a decade on display at the California Science Center, the iconic space shuttle Endeavour is set to embark on its final journey to its permanent home at a new building in Los Angeles.

The state-run museum announced on Thursday that preparations for the move will begin on July 20 with the installation of the base of the shuttle's full stack. The process will involve lowering the bottom sections of the twin solid rocket boosters, each weighing 10,000 pounds and standing at approximately 9 feet tall, onto the newly constructed lowest section of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

Over the course of approximately six months, weather permitting, a series of delicate maneuvers will be conducted. The entire full stack, which weighs half a million pounds and includes the shuttle Endeavour and a massive orange external tank, will eventually be positioned on the base of the solid rocket boosters. This will be achieved by bolting the boosters to the ground using eight supersized, superalloy fasteners that are 9 feet long and weigh between 500 and 600 pounds each.


The roughly six month long process starts with the installastion of the aft skirts which attach the entire space shuttle stack to seismic isolators beneath the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center building.

This installation of the aft skirts is critical as even the slightest misalignment could cause significant problems in the later stages of the process, making it impossible to connect the boosters to the external tank and the tank to the Endeavour.


On tope of the aft skirts the solid rocket motors will be stacked to form the tall, white solid rocket boosters (SRBs)


Forward assemblies are placed on top of the solid rocket motors to complete the tall, white solid rocket boosters (SRBs)


This will be followed by the move and lift of the orange external tank, ET-94, which is attached to the SRBs

The most dramatic phase of the installation will occur in January when a 66,000-pound, 154-foot long external tank—the last of its kind—will be rolled out and hoisted into a vertical position by cranes.

Simultaneously, Endeavour will be moved from its temporary hangar on the western edge of the California Science Center. It will be initially rolled onto the lawn north of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and south of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The shuttle will remain parked in this location for a couple of days while crews prepare the necessary equipment to transport it to the eastern edge of the science center. Self-propelled modular transporters, similar to those used during Endeavour's move from Los Angeles International Airport to the museum in 2012, will be utilized. In a process that could take up to a day, Endeavour will be moved east on State Drive, passing the Exposition Park Rose Garden, until it reaches its new museum home west of the California African American Museum.

The move will pose challenges, requiring the shuttle to be raised by 4 or 5 feet at one point to avoid colliding with a building before being lowered for the remainder of the journey.


Finally, Space Shuttle Endeavour's move and lift into place by a large crane, and the intricate mating of the orbiter with the rest of the Space Shuttle stack. Once finished, Endeavour will be home in its new vertical configuration.

The final phase of the move, is expected to take place as early as January, and will involve raising the spacecraft from its horizontal position to a vertical one for its ultimate display. Cranes, with the tallest one reaching the height of Los Angeles City Hall, will lift the Endeavour into its vertical position.

The rest of the museum will then be constructed around it, marking a significant milestone 11 years after the shuttle's final flight on a Boeing 747, which took it past notable landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign before landing in Los Angeles. A three-day journey through city streets led Endeavour to its current home at the California Science Center.

The announcement of the installation marks a year since ground was broken on the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center and signals the countdown to the conclusion of Endeavour's exhibition in a horizontal position at the California Science Center. The exhibition will end on December 31, after which the shuttle will be carefully relocated to the new building site. However, it may take several years before Endeavour is available for up-close viewing by museum guests once again.

The vertical display of Endeavour at the new facility is believed to make it the tallest authentic spacecraft exhibited in the world. The shuttle also includes an authentic portable unit called Spacehab, which served as a lab or storage pod in its payload bay. One of the payload bay doors will be open and accessible to the public.

Visitors will be able to view Endeavour from multiple platforms, including beneath its three main engines and through a glass floor that offers a direct view of its nose. All the hardware on display will be genuine, making the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center the only place in the world to showcase a stack of authentic shuttle hardware.

The sheer height of the full-stack configuration of Endeavour necessitates the construction of a 20-story building to accommodate it. To ensure unobstructed views, the structure has been engineered without any vertical supports apart from its walls.

The building will feature a unique "diagrid" design, consisting of a diagonal grid developed by engineering firm Arup and covered with a stainless steel facade. Diagrids have been employed in other tall buildings worldwide, including the Hearst Tower in New York City and the Gherkin skyscraper in London.

The relocation of Endeavour to its permanent home at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center marks a significant milestone in preserving and showcasing the historic spacecraft. With its vertical display and authentic hardware, the new facility promises to provide a unique and immersive experience for visitors, allowing them to witness the marvels of space exploration up close.

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