EXPOSITION PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An ambitious effort to display the retired space shuttle Endeavour in an upright configuration at the California Science Center began its next major phase Wednesday when crews slowly move a massive external fuel tank roughly 1,000 feet through Exposition Park so it can be lifted into vertical position.
Moving the tank, known as ET-94, is a delicate operation. ET-94 is 154 feet long, 27.5 feet in diameter and weighs about 65,000 pounds, according to the Science Center. It is also the last remaining flight-qualified external tank in existence.
"It was pulled by a big tug, if you will, and now we're moving it down the street with remote controlled vehicles," said Larry Clark, a retired engineer who helped with the move. "The technology for everything has changed, even the way we move the hardware around."
Beginning at roughly 10 a.m. Wednesday, crews were employing a "self- propelled modular transporter" for the tank's 1,000-foot, two-hour journey past the Science Center building and the Exposition Park Rose Garden to the site of the under-construction Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will house the one-of-a-kind shuttle display.
Once the tank is in place, beginning late Thursday night or early Friday morning, a heavy-duty crane will be used to gently lift it into vertical position and place it alongside two already-standing solid rocket boosters. Vertical assembly of the twin 149-foot tall rocket boosters was completed in early December. That assembly includes the aft skirts or base of the boosters, along with the 116-foot-long rocket motors and the "forward assembly," or cone-shaped tops.
"They're being very careful on making sure they don't damage any of the foam that's on this tank, because it's a giant thermos bottle, and the whole outside is foam," said Clark.
The addition of ET-94 to the vertical display will leave the star attraction -- the shuttle Endeavour itself -- as the only component left to move.
It was unclear exactly when the shuttle will be moved from its existing horizontal display and lifted upright. Science Center officials said only that the move would occur in the "coming weeks."
The Endeavour had been on display horizontally at the Science Center for more than a decade. Public access to the shuttle, however, ended on Dec. 31 so preparations could begin for its eventual move to the new exhibit, which will be the only launch-ready display of a former NASA space shuttle in the world.
Science Center officials have dubbed the months-long effort to create the vertical shuttle display as the "Go For Stack" process.
The shuttle launch display will be the centerpiece of the 200,000- square-foot Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which will nearly double the Science Center's educational exhibition space. The building will include three multi-level galleries, themed for air, space and shuttle. The new facility will also house an events and exhibit center that will house large-scale rotating exhibitions.
An opening date for the new $400 million center has not yet been determined.
City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.