Prepare for the last major transport of space shuttle equipment to the California Science Center, a two-day spectacle that will cross seven freeways from the Mojave Desert to South Los Angeles, where it will finally be placed in a grand 20-story museum exhibit.
It’s the last major piece of equipment needed as the California Science Center builds the $400 million Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, the final museum home to the space shuttle Endeavour, assembled as if ready for launch. The new wing of the museum has been anticipated since 2011, when NASA selected the science center as one of only three museums nationwide to permanently display three live shuttles that saw spaceflight.
When the final exhibit is fully built, the Endeavor will be the only space shuttle that will be displayed as if it is ready to launch. The effort will be moved from its temporary hangar and raised from a horizontal to a vertical position not earlier than the last week of January.
This week’s space shuttle equipment trip will take three hours Tuesday morning and six hours Wednesday morning. Propulsion includes twin solid rocket motors, which make up most of the white solid rocket boosters. Solid rocket boosters produce more than 80% of the lift during takeoff.
The rocket motors will travel about 160 miles from their current home at the Mojave Air and Space Port to the California Science Center.
Donated by Northrup Grumman, each solid rocket motor is huge—12 feet, 2 inches in diameter, and 116 feet long. Each solid rocket motor weighs 104,000 pounds and is carried on a truck.
“They are big rockets,” said Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center. “And they’re the diameter of a Boeing 757 fuselage and about the same length. That’s why they’re quite big enough to move to the streets.
“This is the last big part of ‘lift-to-vertical’ that the public can come out and see and participate in.” This week’s move, he said, will be “the last chance to see a large part of the shuttle moving through the city.”
The powerful rocket motors are so wide that they pass through more than one lane of traffic.
But the diameter of the rocket motors is so small that, if carried in a low bed of the truck, they can fit under the freeway lanes along the designated route. That means that the journey of this equipment will happen much easier and faster than the transport of the Endeavor orbiter in 2012 and the orange outer tank in 2016.
On freeways, road closures are not required for travel. Instead, the plan is for solid rocket motors to be surrounded by escort vehicles and California Highway Patrol vehicles. The speed of rocket motors is usually 45 mph on freeways.
The rocket motors will begin leaving the Mojave Air and Space Port at 9 a.m. Tuesday, exit south on Airport Road, then east on Mojave-Barstow Highway, and then continue on Route 58.
Then the rocket motors head south on US 395, then south on Interstate 15 through Cajon Pass. Once in Rancho Cucamonga, the rocket motors will head west on the 210 Freeway and head toward Irwindale, where they will head south on the 605 Freeway and arrive at a location around noon Tuesday. The rocket motors will stay in place at a location next to the freeway for about 15 hours; they do not block traffic, and their exact location is not disclosed.
Then, on Wednesday, at 3 o’clock in the morning, continue the trip. Rocket motors head south on the 605 Freeway. After arriving in Norwalk, the rockets head west on the 105. Then they turn north on the 110 Freeway, and around 5 a.m., they exit at Gage Avenue, heading east before heading north on Broadway.
Rocket Motors will turn left on Slauson Avenue, heading under the 110 Freeway, before making a right on Figueroa Street. At 7:30 a.m., the rocket motors are expected to head north on Figueroa Street, starting at West 43rd Place, and continue for about two miles before arriving at the California Science Center.
Motor rockets are expected to stop at 8 a.m. at Figueroa Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. At 8:45 am, they are expected to pass a ceremonial finish line at Figueroa and 39th streets, and at 9 am, turn left onto State Drive and finally arrive at the California Science Center.
“People can come out and be on the sidewalks and watch,” Rudolph said; the museum says the public is invited to gather on Figueroa Street from West 43rd Place to 39th Street. The California Science Center will also open its doors an hour earlier on Wednesday, at 9 a.m., so spectators can enter as soon as the solid rocket motors arrive.
The closest Metro rail stop to the California Science Center is at the Expo Park/USC station along the “E” light rail line, formerly known as the Expo Line. Parking is also available in the museum’s Blue Parking Structure, but motorists must enter through the Hoover Street and Martin Luther King Jr. entrances. Boulevard.
There will be rolling road closures on city streets once the rocket motors exit the 110 Freeway.
After Endeavour’s arrival in 2012, the orbiter was displayed in the temporary Samuel Oschin Pavilion, which is essentially a warehouse where it has been viewed for the past decade and where it will be on display until December 31. After that date, it could be years before the Endeavor would again be available for close-up viewing by museum visitors.
In mid-2022, the California Science Center broke ground on the new permanent museum, and three months later, construction crews began installing the base of the shuttle’s full stack. They installed the lower part of the solid rocket boosters, known as the aft skirts, which are 9 feet long, that will support the solid rocket motors that were brought across Southern California this week.
Once the solid rocket motors are installed, the top of the rockets – the 27-foot “forward assembly,” which includes the nose cone and the forward skirt – will be installed next. When the solid rocket boosters are fully assembled, they are roughly 149 feet tall, and each weighs about 130,000 pounds.
That will set the stage for the installation of the orange tank outside, not earlier than early January, followed by the installation of Endeavour.