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  Orbiter Protective Enclosure

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Author Topic:   Orbiter Protective Enclosure
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-20-2007 04:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Huntsville Times:
A space shuttle garage.

In the late 1980s, a pre-fab building was designed by Sprung Instant Structures in Marietta, Ga., that could, within a matter of hours, be flown to and erected over a shuttle to protect it and shield it from prying eyes if it was ever forced to land outside the U.S. while carrying classified cargo. The Orbiter Protective Enclosure was never used, and there is only one in existence.

Marshall Space Flight Center helped get the OPE donated to the Space Center's growing collection, and early last year trucks from Kennedy Space Center in Florida rolled 17 crates containing the building to Huntsville.

[U.S. Space & Rocket Center CEO Larry] Capps wants to find a site at the Space Center, pour a foundation and put the OPE together and on permanent display. The estimated cost, including finishing the interior for visitors, is about $5 million.

Center officials have suggested that the OPE could make for an appropriate enclosure for a retired space shuttle orbiter, seeing as though its original purpose was to protect the vehicle.
But having the one-of-a-kind garage open would give the Space Center more than just a unique piece of the shuttle program's history. It would make Huntsville the only place vying for one of the retired orbiters that already has a place to put it.

There is room for the OPE east of the Marriott hotel near the center's Aviation Challenge area, Capps said. But he would prefer to see it in the Rocket Park near the new visitors center and exhibition hall for the refurbished Saturn V rocket, set to open this fall.

The Space Center already has a near-actual-size space shuttle model, Pathfinder, that was built in 1977 to test cranes and other shuttle-handling equipment and procedures. But having one of the ships that has actually been in orbit would be the perfect addition to a museum that already includes "flown" capsules and artifacts from Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab - all the manned U.S. space programs.

"It would kind of complete the continuum -- to have a real orbiter that has flown in space," Capps said.

For more about the orbiters' post-retirement plans, see: Retired shuttles on display

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