Space Center Houston Exhibit to Feature NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, Orbiter Replica

August 24th, 2013

The Boeing Co. is partnered with Space Center Houston to develop a unique $12 million educational display commemorating NASA’s space shuttle era.

The Shuttle and 747 Carrier Project is expected to open in 2015 at Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Artist's rendering of new Space Center Houston space shuttle exhibit. Image Credit/Space Center Houston

The new display will couple NASA 905, a vintage Boeing 747 jumbo jet configured as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft to transport the shuttle orbiters piggy back style across the country.

As NASA 905, the former passenger jet owned by American Airlines carried out 70 of the 87 shuttle orbiter ferry flights, including 46 of the 54 necessary to return the winged shuttles from landings at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for future launchings. The SCA’s final official assignment was to deliver the orbiters Discovery,Enterprise and Endeavour to the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport near Washington D. C., the Intrepid Sea, Air andSpace Museum inNew York City and the California Science Center in Los Angeles for permanent public display.

NASA’s orbiter fleet was retired in 2011 after 135 space flights.

The SCA made its way to Ellington Field inHouston, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in late 2012. Ownership was transferred from NASA to Space Center Houston in May.

“Johnson is excited to see the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft remain inHoustonon permanent display for all to see,” said Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Johnson’s director. “The original orbiter transport is an historic icon of the space shuttle era. It truly will be an amazing attraction.”

Boeing will oversee the disassembly of the SCA at Ellington, its transport and re-assembly at the entrance to Space Center Houston.

“Boeing was involved in every stage of the Space Shuttle program, which encompassed the ferried flights of NASA’s Orbiters across America for more than 35 years,” said John Elbon, Boeing vice president and general manager of space exploration. “Now, we have an opportunity to extend that contribution, while upholding one of our strongest corporate commitments to inspire the next-generation workforce through dynamic STEM initiatives. We are proud the SCA will have its new home at Space Center Houston.”

An Orbiter replica, transported from the Kennedy Visitor Center Complex near Titusville, Fla., in June 2012, will be positioned atop the SCA as part of an elevator accessible, six story interactive exhibit. The only exhibit of its type will carry STEM, science, technology, engineering and math, as a central theme.

Currently, Space Center Houston is sponsoring a name the shuttle contest as part of the development effort.

“Each year, more than 750,000 visitors from around the world come to Space Center Houston to learn about America’s space program through our multitude of exhibits and theatres,” said Richard Allen, president and CEO of Space Center Houston. “Now, thanks to Boeing’s generous contribution, we will be able to produce an unparalleled attraction that will uniquely showcase the wonders of NASA’s innovation and technology.”