Space Shuttle Explorer
Space Shuttle replica Explorer at Kennedy Space Center, Florida
|Status||Awaiting interior refurbishment at Johnson Space Center|
Space Shuttle Explorer (honorary Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-100) is a full-scale, high-fidelity replica of the Space Shuttle. It was built in Apopka, Florida by Guard-Lee and installed at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in 1993. It was built using schematics, blueprints and archival documents provided by NASA and by shuttle contractors such as Rockwell International. While many of the features on the replica are simulated, some of the model's core parts, including the Michelin tires used on the landing gear, are authentic to the Space Shuttle Program. The model's length is 122.7 feet, its height is 54 feet, and its wingspan is 78 feet.
Internal details of the mock-up are not remarkably accurate, though the size and scope of the payload bay is correct. Externally, the mock-up features simulated thermal protection system tiles (bearing numbers, as the genuine flight articles used to), paneling that looks like reinforced carbon–carbon (RCC) panels on the leading edges of the wings, and actual Michelin tires on the landing gear which were flown in space. Handling points are also shown, but the external detailing does not extend to the inclusion of thermal blankets.
Display at KSC 
Explorer was displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex atop cement pilings and secured with steel cabling. Access to visitors was provided via a gantry-style tower with ramps and an elevator for accessibility. Visitors viewed a mock-up payload, a mannequin wearing an early model of the orange launch/entry pressure suit worn by shuttle astronauts, and a mock-up cockpit with controls and instruments. There was full sized mockup of the external tank (originally used by the Stennis Space Center for fit test) mated to two solid rocket boosters adjacent to Explorer as well.
Aside from entry through the mock-gantry, no other points of entry were available.
Move to Houston 
Space Shuttle Explorer was removed from KSC Visitor Center December 11, 2011, by Beyel Bros and moved on a 144-wheel trailer by truck to the VAB turning basin dock at the VAB adjacent to the Launch Complex 39 Press Site to be loaded onto a barge bound for Johnson Space Center's Space Center Houston visitor center in spring 2012. Once there, the inaccurate interior will be refurbished to accurate museum quality and put on display.
The original moving plans were to remove the wings for transportation, however NASA and Delaware North Resorts & Hospitality, which manages operations of the Visitor Center, along with NASA, feared images of a space shuttle with no wings could become iconic of the Shuttle program's ending and ignite the public, undermining NASA's work to bring the Orion/SLS system into people's minds forgetting the shuttle. Thus, to accommodate the move, several light poles along State Road 3 (SR 3) and SR 405 were taken down and the shuttle itself was lifted by hydraulic jacks over the guard building on SR 3. Delaware North was responsible for all moving costs.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will construct a new building to display the retired shuttle Atlantis.
Johnson Space Center hosted a celebration for the arrival of the Explorer orbiter. The Shuttlebration started on June 1, 2012, at the southeast corner of Clear Lake by the Nassau Bay Hilton Hotel. The festivities, so far, have included the arrival of the Shuttle at the dock. This was largest item to arrive at the dock since the Saturn V arrived for display in 1977.
Shuttle mock-up Explorer at the Kennedy Space Center
See also 
- Pearlman, Robert Z (May 24, 2012). "Space shuttle replica sets sail for Houston". Space.com. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- "Space shuttle replica sets sail for Houston". CollectSpace.com. May 24, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "NASA's Fla. visitor center clearing way for Atlantis arrival". CollectSpace.com. November 29, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- NASA Office of Inspector General (September 14, 2000). "Transfer of External Tank Display to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex". NASA.gov. IG-00-044. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "Shuttlebration Weekend". Space Center Houston. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- "NASA Joins Community In Shuttlebration Weekend Celebration" (Press release). NASA/PRNewswire via MarketWatch.com. May 30, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- Media related to Space Shuttle Explorer at Wikimedia Commons