Two rocket boosters designed to propel space shuttles 28 miles in about two minutes have traveled nearly 2,500 miles in about two weeks on the way from Florida to Southern California's Edwards Air Force Base.
The rocket boosters -- they will eventually be part of the space shuttle Endeavour display scheduled to open in October at the California Science Center -- were picked up Aug. 13 at Kennedy Space Center. They are scheduled to arrive Friday at Edwards Air Force Base, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, where they will be stored until they are ready for transport to the Science Center.
The exact route from the Arizona border to Edwards AFB will be determined in coordination with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, said Kelli McGookin, of Performance Transport. The Bloomington-based company she owns with her husband Mike -- he's driving the yellow Peterbilt big rig a rocket booster strapped to the back -- was contracted to move one of the boosters.
The company usually hauls heavy construction equipment. Yes, this is its first job involving a rocket booster.
"It's not just wide, but it's long and high," said McGookin, who added that people immediately recognize the rocket booster. "They stand in awe, and stop and pull off on side of road."
Another company is hauling the second booster along the same route, which has primarily been on or parallel to Interstate 10.
The boosters provided the liftoff thrust necessary to counquer the pull of Earth's gravity and reach space, but they have trouble with corners and freeway overpasses. The dolly turns independently of the trailer, making corners less challenging.
The transport route, subject to change because of construction and traffic conditions, is usually determined by highway patrol agencies and state transportation departments.
The boosters are expected to be in the Banning area by Thursday evening before the final 130-mile tow to the air base for storage.
The boosters, which separated from an orbiter's external fuel tank at an altitude of about 24 nautical miles, dropped to the ocean on parachutes. During the years of the space shuttle program, they were recovered, refurbished and reused.
As for Endeavour, it is scheduled to arrive at LAX Sept. 20 on the back of a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The shuttle will travel 12 miles on city streets before arriving Oct. 13 at the Science Center.
The exhibit is scheduled to open Oct. 30 at a temporary location at the Science Center. The museum plans to construct the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, scheduled for completion in 2017. It will house the shuttle and related exhibits.
The Science Center was selected last year by NASA to house one of three retired shuttles. Atlantis will remain in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Discovery will go on display at the Smithsonian Institution's Dulles Airport hangar.
Endeavour's journey marks a homecoming for the shuttle, wihch completed its final mission in April 2011. The shuttles was built at Rockwell International Space Systems in Palmdale.
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