LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The space shuttle Endeavour lifted off one last time, as California Science Center crews hoisted the retired orbiter into the air over Exposition Park so it could be lowered into place in a one-of-a-kind launch-ready vertical display.
Endeavour, which made its last space flight 13 years ago and has been on display horizontally at the Science Center for more than a decade, was slowly moved Friday from its previous pavilion to a new position next to the under-construction Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.
The 122-foot-long shuttle was later outfitted with a "sling" attached to a 450-foot-tall crane, which began final preparations to lift the orbiter into the air around 10 p.m. Monday. The technically delicate aerial move was being carried out with meticulous care and was expected to take several hours and last well into the early morning hours Tuesday.
The shuttle, which achieved its assisted "liftoff" early Tuesday, will be lifted up and over the wall of the new center, then lowered into launch position with two solid rocket boosters and a 65,000-pound external fuel tank known as ET-94, which are already in place. Endeavour will be the final piece of the display, and its move will complete the California Science Center's "Go For Stack" process of creating the launch-ready exhibition.
When completed, the Science Center will be home to the only vertical launch-ready display of a former NASA space shuttle in the world.
Crews responsible for the lifting operation kept a close eye on the weather. A similar lift of the 154-foot-tall ET-94 endured several delays due to high winds that developed in the area, and CSC officials were prepared to call an audible if similar conditions occurred Monday night, but the operation began as planned.
The twin rocket boosters were secured in place in early January, combining the aft skirts, or base, with the rocket motors and nose cones the create a 149-foot-tall assembly.
In the end, the display will stand roughly 20 stories in the air, surrounded by 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 be home to large-scale rotating exhibitions.
An opening date for the $400 million center has not yet been determined.