Aft Skirt Installation


Los Angeles, CA


California Science Center


ZGF Architects

Project Size

205,000 sf


Milestone One of Go For Stack: Installation of Aft Skirts for Space Shuttle Endeavour’s “Ready to Launch” Position

Project team at the California Science Center successfully completes first step in displaying space shuttle Endeavour in its vertical launch position

This past month, on International Space Exploration Day, the California Science Center commenced Go for Stack, the complex process of moving and lifting each of space shuttle Endeavour’s components into place for the shuttle’s upcoming 20-story vertical display in the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, currently being built by MATT Construction, alongside partners at ZGF Architects and Arup.

Steve Matt and Jason Lin at CSC aft skirt installation
Steve Matt and Jason Lin at the aft skirt installation

Step One: Aft Skirt Installation

This first milestone was marked by the lift and installation of two Aft Skirts, which serve as the base of the Solid Rocket Boosters and will lay the foundation upon which the entire shuttle stack will be built. The installation of the Aft Skirts is the first step in creating the world’s only display of an authentic, “ready-to-launch” space shuttle system.

To kick off this exciting process, the team used a 300-ton crane to lower the bottom sections of the aft skirts, which are approximately 10,000 pounds apiece and roughly 9 feet tall, to the lowest section of the soon to be Shuttle Gallery section of the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. The crane lifted and placed the aft skirts on top of a 1,800-ton concrete slab that is supported by six base isolators, each made from a durable superalloy material weighing 900 pounds and measuring nine feet in length. Both skirts were then secured to the isolator pad by four hold-down studs; the margin of error in alignment was less than one-tenth of an inch.

Precision at aft skirt installation
Image showing the precision necessary for aft skirt installation

What’s Next?

Following the aft skirt installation, the team is continuing the approximately six-month detailed process of installing the entirety of space shuttle Endeavour. The next Go For Stack milestone involves the transportation of the two Solid Rocket Motors, donated by Northrop Grumman, from Mojave to the California Science Center. Upon arrival, the 116-foot long motors will be stacked, followed by the Forward Assemblies, which together form the Solid Rocket Boosters. Next in the process comes the move, lift and mate of the large External Tank “ET-94” to the Solid Rocket Boosters. Finally, the stacking process becomes complete with the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final journey across Exposition Park, where it will be lifted into the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center and mated to the rest of the space shuttle stack–a feat that has never taken place outside of a NASA facility before. Once the stack is complete, Endeavour will be on display in its “ready to launch” configuration, towering 200 feet tall. From there, the project team will complete the build of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center around the full shuttle stack.

Rendering of Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center
Rendering showing space shuttle Endeavour in “ready to launch” position

Once complete, the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center will double as the California Science Center’s educational exhibit space for guests visiting from around the world to witness Space Shuttle Endeavour and the rest of the expansive artifacts and hands-on exhibits the Center has to offer.

Steve Matt and Plas Tal at CSC
Steve Matt and Plas-Tal team at aft skirt installation

To read more about the upcoming milestones, the dynamics of what the installation process entails, as well as graphics outlining how the shuttle will be anchored for earthquake safety, check out the recently published Los Angeles Times article: Space shuttle Endeavour preps for move to vertical alanding in new museum.

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