California Science Center crews set to lift massive fuel tank for Endeavour space shuttle display


EXPOSITION PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) — California Science Center crews are rigging a massive external fuel tank to a giant crane early Friday to lift it into the air and delicately place it in vertical position as part of the eventual upright display of the space shuttle Endeavour.

Crews began lifting the tank into the air around 4 a.m.

On Wednesday, a “self-propelled modular transporter” was used to slowly move the large orange tank, known as ET-94, approximately 1,000 feet through Exposition Park and into position for its planned crane ride. It took roughly two hours to move the massive tank, which is 154 feet long, 27.5 feet in diameter and weighs about 65,000 pounds.

ET-94 is the last remaining flight-qualified external tank in existence.

The lifted the orange tank as high as 200 feet in the air, then lower it delicately into place inside the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will house the one-of-a-kind shuttle display.

The tank will fit between two already-standing solid rocket boosters. Vertical assembly of the twin 149-foot tall rocket boosters was completed in early December. That assembly includes the aft skirts or base of the boosters, along with the 116-foot-long rocket motors and the “forward assembly,” or cone-shaped tops.

The addition of ET-94 to the vertical display will leave the star attraction — the shuttle Endeavour itself — as the only component left to move.

The $400 million project will double the science center’s educational exhibit space by adding 100 authentic artifacts.

It was unclear exactly when the shuttle will be moved from its existing horizontal display and lifted upright. Science Center officials said only that the move will occur in the “coming weeks.”

The Endeavour had been on display horizontally at the Science Center for more than a decade. Public access to the shuttle, however, ended on Dec. 31 so preparations could begin for its eventual move to the new exhibit, which will be the only launch-ready display of a former NASA space shuttle in the world.

Science Center officials have dubbed the months-long effort to create the vertical shuttle display as the “Go For Stack” process.

The shuttle launch display will be the centerpiece of the 200,000- square-foot Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will nearly double the Science Center’s educational exhibition space. 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.

An opening date for the $400 million center has not yet been determined.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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