HOUSTON, TX (KLTV) - Space Center Houston is adding a "jumbo" piece of space history to its already impressive fleet of retired spacecraft and aerospace vehicles.
Thursday, NASA announced the transfer of ownership of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, to the official visitor's center of the Johnson Space Center.
The SCA, one of two modified Boeing 747 jumbo jets, were used to ferry NASA's fleet of Space Shuttles from coast to coast, beginning in 1977. Space Center Houston's SCA flew under the tail designation "SCA-905" and was de-commissioned in 2012 after the retirement of the Shuttle fleet.
Space Center Houston plans to mount a full-size replica of the Space Shuttle atop the SCA in flight configuration, as part of a 12-million dollar educational complex. According to a news release, "The Shuttle and 747 Carrier will give visitors the world's first and only all-access pass to an authentic and realistic journey through the inside of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as well as an unforgettable experience aboard the full-scale, Shuttle model."
Ferrying all six Shuttles, SCA-950 was used more than 250 times over three decades. It flew at speeds of 457 miles per hour, weighing 600,000 pounds.
The Shuttle replica, which arrived in Houston from Kennedy Space Center last June, is on display on the grounds of Space Center Houston. Once the model is permanently mounted atop the 747, the six-story attraction will allow visitors to tour the SCA, as well as the flight deck and payload bay of the full-size Shuttle mockup.
The lengthy process of readying the project will begin in November, when the SCA will be transported from Ellington Field in Houston to the nearby Space Center Houston. The new exhibit is scheduled to open to the public by February 2015.
Already on display at Space Center Houston: an original model of the Goddard Rocket, the Mercury- Atlas 9 "Faith 7" capsule flown by Gordon Cooper, a Mercury-Redstone rocket, the Gemini V Spacecraft piloted by Pete Conrad and Gordon Cooper, a Lunar Roving Vehicle Trainer, the massive Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 17 Command Module, the Skylab Space Station Trainer, and the Apollo-Soyuz Trainer.