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Nose cones top off work to stand-up boosters for Endeavour exhibit

December 5, 2023

— The work to stand up two rockets for the launchpad-like exhibit of NASA's retired space shuttle Endeavour has been capped — literally and figuratively — with the addition of two nose cones.

As the California Science Center prepares to take Endeavour off of public display for the next few years, the first major components for the orbiter's vertical exhibit are now complete at the construction site for the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center in Los Angeles. Just one month after crane operators hoisted into place the large segments for the two solid rocket boosters (SRBs), they were back in motion this week topping off the towering rockets with the forward assemblies.

Comprised of a nose cap, frustum, ordnance ring and forward skirt, each 27-foot-tall (8.2-meter), 10,000-pound (4,500-kilogram) assembly was raised from the street and lifted more than 100 feet (30.5 meters) into the air before being lowered onto a booster. Standing atop metal and wood scaffolding, workers then secured the hardware by inserting 195 one-inch-diameter (2.54-centimeter) metal pins.

The starboard, or right-side booster was completed on Monday (Dec. 4), followed by the port, or left-side rocket on Tuesday.

"This achievement underscores our commitment to advancing science learning and creating opportunities for inspiration," said Jeffrey Rudolph, president and chief executive officer of the California Science Center, in a statement. "We look forward to the continued progress on the vertical installation of Endeavour and to sharing this awe-inspiring display with guests when we open the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center in a few years."

Forward assemblies installation. Click to enlarge in pop-up window. (California Science Center)

In flight, the forward assemblies held the avionics, forward separation motors and drogue and main parachutes for each booster. After falling away from the external tank, the frustums were jettisoned and recovered separately.

The SRBs going on exhibit with Endeavour were assembled from all flight-worthy or previous launched parts as donated by Northrop Grumman and NASA. They were the first major components to be taken vertical as part of the science center's "Go for Stack" campaign. Early next year, the boosters will be mated with NASA's last-remaining, built-for-flight space shuttle external tank (ET-94), which has been parked in Exposition Park since 2016.

Endeavour, which has been on horizontal exhibit for the past 11 years, has just 26 days left on its current display inside the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Pavilion. On Jan. 1, the orbiter's exhibit will be closed to the public in preparation for its move over to the Oschin Air and Space Center site and, on an upcoming night still to be determined, lifted by two cranes above the new museum's partially erected walls and onto the attach points on the external tank.

More scaffolding will be then be assembled around the orbiter to protect it and the entire space shuttle stack as work resumes to complete the building over the next few years.


Aerial view of the completed solid rocket boosters (SRBs) that will stand with the space shuttle Endeavour in the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center in Los Angeles. (California Science Center)

The port, or left-side forward assembly is lowered by crane onto its solid rocket booster for the launchpad-like exhibit of NASA's retired space shuttle Endeavour. (California Science Center)

With the installation of the port, or left-side solid rocket booster's forward assembly, workers complete the first major components of the California Science Center's display of NASA's retired space shuttle Endeavour in the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. (California Science Center)

Two space shuttle solid rocket boosters now stand in the construction site of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. (California Science Center)

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