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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Marks Visible Milestone in Construction of $100 Million Space Shuttle Atlantis with Installation Underway for Dramatic 184-Foot-Tall “Gateway”

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (April 11, 2013) KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex today marked a visible milestone on its countdown toward the June 29 grand opening of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the $100 million home of the historic Atlantis spacecraft that tells the incredible story of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program.
Using a 200-foot-tall crane, the construction crew successfully installed lower portions of two full-size, high-fidelity solid rocket boosters (SRBs) that, when vertically mated with a high-fidelity model of the external tank (ET), will form a dramatic, 184-foot-tall gateway under which visitors will pass to visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction.
The high-fidelity booster models require six stages of assembly, half of which are now complete. The crane recently hoisted two segments that sit atop the base to be later configured as the cone-shaped booster nozzle also known as the “aft skirt.” In the coming weeks, another segment will be added and then topped off with the nose cone. After being raised and placed, workers secure and weld each section.
When completely assembled, the two 12-foot-wide SRBs will stand 149 feet tall, or half the length of an American football field. The SRBs will support the orange external fuel tank (ET) to be installed beginning in late April. At 154 feet long and 27.6 feet in diameter, the ET is the largest element of the space shuttle “stack” and was often called the backbone of the system. It will be raised 24 feet in the air between the twin SRBs, reaching a height of 184 feet—taller than an 18-story building. Once the massive structure is complete, it will serve as a beacon to guests, visible for miles, particularly when lighted at night. Although the public is accustomed to seeing images of the orbiter (or shuttle) mated to the SRBs and ET, the majestic gateway at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will feature only the white boosters and orange external tank, building excitement for the dramatic reveal of the authentic Atlantis orbiter inside.
“It’s one thing for us to announce details and statistics about Space Shuttle Atlantis and its dramatic, 184-foot-tall entrance, but it is quite another to actually be here in person, standing at the foot of these absolutely massive high-fidelity space shuttle components,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “Starting June 29, visitors will be able to get up close to the boosters and external tank in a way that only NASA personnel have been able to experience before. Should guests stop for just a moment and imagine the brave astronauts inside Atlantis, strapped to these explosive, fuel-filled SRBs and ET and rocketing into space, goose bumps are guaranteed. And that’s before guests even set foot inside.”
St. Louis-based PGAV Destinations designed Space Shuttle Atlantis in partnership with NASA and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Penwal Industries Inc., a California-based company that creates custom engineering and fabrication, designed and manufactured the model SRBs and ET.
In use throughout the 30-year history of the Space Shuttle Program, the solid rocket boosters and external tank provided the fuel to launch NASA’s orbiters into space. The SRBs burned more than two million pounds of fuel as they accelerated the space shuttle to 3,500 miles per hour for approximately two minutes. They were then jettisoned over the Atlantic Ocean to be recovered and used for future missions. The ET received its trademark orange color from spray-on foam insulation that was used in conjunction with other materials to help prevent ice build-up and protect the tank from aerodynamic heating. It supplied the space shuttle’s three main engines with 535,277 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which was consumed in approximately eight and a half minutes. The tank was then jettisoned as the vehicle reached orbit, disintegrating in Earth’s atmosphere.
Space Shuttle Atlantis will do more than showcase the priceless aircraft that flew in space 33 times — state-of-the-art multimedia presentations and more than 60 interactive exhibits and high-tech simulators will bring to life the complex components and systems behind this incredible feat of engineering. One of the most complicated and sophisticated pieces of equipment ever built, the shuttle was a vehicle that launched like a rocket, flew in orbit like a spacecraft and landed on a runway like a glider. The immersive experience also will shine a spotlight on the astounding achievements made over the course of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program, most notably, the building of the International Space Station and the launch and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope. The 90,000-square-foot Space Shuttle Atlantis is the marquee element of the Visitor Complex’s 10-year master plan by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which has operated Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA since 1995.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is not funded through tax dollars or appropriated funds. The revenue generated by ticket, food and merchandise sales supports the operation, maintenance and development of the Visitor Complex, including the new Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Editor’s Note:
Video of the solid rocket booster installation will be available after 2 p.m. for download:
Photographs and a rendering of the Space Shuttle Atlantis entry featuring the solid rocket
boosters will be available at