Space shuttle rocket motors arrive at Science Center

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of people gathered near Exposition Park Oct. 11 to witness some unusual cargo being hauled through the area, as a pair of large solid rocket motors were delivered to the California Science Center to be included in the eventual upright display of the space shuttle Endeavour.

The rocket motors are the major components of the twin solid rocket boosters that were used to help propel the shuttles into space. All of the launch components — the shuttle, rocket boosters and a massive external fuel tank — will be included in the vertical display of Endeavour at its new home in the $400 million Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.

When completed, the display will be the only vertical, launch-ready configuration of a retired shuttle in the world.

Endeavour has been on display horizontally at the Science Center for 11 years. The external fuel tank is already in storage at the Science Center, awaiting its upright positioning in the new display.

Delivery of the solid rocket motors is one of the last major components needed for the arrangement. Center officials in July officially began the process of creating the vertical display, in what they have dubbed a “Go for Stack” process.

The rocket motors, which were donated by Northrop Grumman, made the final leg of their journey from the Mojave Air and Space Port north of Lancaster, where they had been in storage. The motors began their long journey Oct. 10, moving through San Bernardino County and through the Cajon Pass. The journey resumed at about 3 a.m. the next day, traveling south on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway, then west on the Glenn Anderson (105) Freeway and north on the Harbor (110) Freeway and into downtown.

Hundreds of people lined Figueroa Street to watch the final leg of the journey as the 116-foot-long, 12-foot diameter, 104,000-pound cylindrical motors were towed slowly into the Science Center.

“They’re giant,” one young girl told KCAL9 along the route. “I didn’t even realize they were that big. It’s amazing that they actually can use those to propel the (shuttle) into space.”

Another woman called the sight “amazing.”

“I mean, there’s nothing more educational than history being made,” she told Channel 9. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to see something again that was in space on our street before it’s in a museum.”

The arrival of the motors occurred 11 years to the day that the shuttle Endeavour began its captivating cross-town journey from Los Angeles International Airport to the Science Center.

“Eleven years after Endeavour’s memorable crosstown journey, we’re delighted to invite the public to join us once again to be a part of this next historic arrival,” Jeffrey Rudolph, president and CEO of the California Science Center, said in a statement earlier in the week.

“The arrival of the [rocket motors] will propel us one step closer to the completion of the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will serve as a launchpad for creativity and innovation and will inspire future generations of scientists, engineers and explorers.”

The motors will be in temporary storage at the Science Center, awaiting placement in the upright Endeavour display.

The six-month “Go for Stack” process began in July with the installation of the rocket booster aft skirts. The next phase will be the move of the rocket motors and other components of the solid rocket boosters into vertical position, followed by the placement of 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 opening planned in 2025.

Due to the moving and construction process, the space shuttle Endeavour will be removed from public display, meaning the last chance for people to see the shuttle in its current configuration will be Dec. 31.

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 also will house an events and exhibit center that will house large-scale rotating exhibitions.