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Crane Caps Second SRB Model for Atlantis
The KSC Visitor ComplexImage above: The newly completed replica solid rocket boosters stand in front of the main exhibit hall for space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. A replica external tank will be mounted between the SRBs, just as they would for launching a shuttle. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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Atlantis inside exhibit hall Image above: Space shuttle Atlantis stands inside a new, 90,000-square-foot exhibit and attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The exhibit will open to the public June 29. Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis
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The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is quickly nearing the completion of its countdown to opening as workers topped off the second solid rocket booster model Monday.

The one-of-a-kind attraction is to open June 29 and will feature the spacecraft that flew the last mission of the shuttle era in July 2011.

"There's obviously a lot of work that needs to be done, but we're comfortable in the schedule," said Tim Macy, director of Project Development and Construction for the visitor complex.

Standing at 149 feet each, the life-size twin booster models will support a replica external fuel tank whose metal skeleton also is taking shape. A shuttle orbiter depended on the boosters and tank during launch to reach orbit.

Crews began stacking the replica boosters in April. When completed, the stack will be a space-age archway people will walk through on the way to the Atlantis exhibit.

"This is a significant project in and of itself," Macy said as more than a dozen workers, some inside the replica SRB and others in high-reaching platform trucks, performed their roles in assembling the structure.

The boosters reach about 33 feet higher than the tallest point of the Atlantis building, but the external tank will take that about 35 feet higher when finished, reaching 184 feet. It will be the only vertical shuttle stack anywhere when finished.

Inside the 90,000-square-foot building will be the main attraction: Atlantis standing on pedestals and tilted to one side with cargo bay doors open and robotic arm extended. It will be reminiscent of the shuttle as it flew in space.

Although it's not open yet and has lots of work to go before it opens, the Atlantis exhibit is already drawing admiring gasps.

"I took the four flow directors through and every single one of them was blown away," Macy said. "When you come around the corner and see it the first time, it's something, it's really something. I'm sure of the wow factor, that's not been an issue."

A full-scale model of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and replica elements of the International Space Station will help round out the story of NASA's longest-lived human spaceflight program and the people that made it work.

Steven Siceloff,
Kennedy Space Center