The first full-size Space Shuttle mockup, located in Downey, California was recently relocated from a warehouse on the Downey Studios lot to the Columbia Memorial Space Center.
I was part of a group of Rogue Tweeps in Southern California for the Mars Curiosity rover landing event. We had access to the mockup, which is just as impressive as seeing a real shuttle from a few feet away. And there were keys for this one!
The mockup built in 1972 was used to as a shuttle prototype before Rockwell International won a $2.6 billion contract on July 26th to build the actual shuttles.
It was America’s first space shuttle that predated Enterprise by two years. The shuttle is split into four pieces that took about 15 hours to move this past July. Designed in 1971 and built in 1972, Rockwell used it to show NASA officials what they could build if NASA signed a contract. It was used to test new configurations, like a glass cockpit, until 1999 when Boeing shut down the plant.
The whereabouts of the port side wing and stabilizer are unknown, and could have been recycled into other parts between 1972 and 1982.
One of the cargo bay doors has an extra bump on the end of the door near the tail. The original design in 1972 included escape rockets that could have pulled the shuttle away from the external tank in an emergency. The Air Force chose to have this option removed.
The full payload bay includes an engineering mockup of the the Canadarm.
An unexpected discovery was the EDO pallet, which extended the length of missions. This is the last known pallet still in existence. It attached to the payload bay rear bulkhead of the orbiter.
The Columbia Memorial Space Center is planning to have tours starting on August 25th and eventually house the mockup in a permanent interactive exhibit.