Historic “Soft Mate” Completed in Unprecedented Shuttle Display Project
The California Science Center has achieved its aim in the Center’s ambitious project to display the space shuttle Endeavour in a ready-to-launch configuration. Today’s successful lift of the space shuttle orbiter marks the first time such a feat has been accomplished outside of a NASA or Air Force facility.
Commencing on Monday, January 29, around 9:30 pm, the intricate process, known as the “soft mate,” took just under 9.5 hours to complete. This phase involves lifting and positioning the orbiter in preparation for the subsequent “hard mate.” The latter, currently underway, involves securely fastening the flight hardware bolts and nuts, ensuring the firm placement of the orbiter. Once the hard mate is finalized, the sling supporting the orbiter will be removed, marking the completion of this groundbreaking process.
Endeavor, with a wingspan of 78 feet and a length of 122 feet, weighs an impressive 178,000 lbs. Having undertaken 25 missions in space, it stands as a testament to the achievements of the space shuttle program.
The installation of Endeavour in the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, an integral part of the California Science Center’s major expansion, represents the grand finale of the unprecedented Go for Stack process. This process aims to create the world’s only authentic space shuttle system display.
The press release from the Center on social media said, “The California Science Center expresses gratitude for its remarkable team of experts, many with decades of experience working with NASA and the shuttle program. Some team members have been part of the journey since the very first space shuttle launch in 1981. This marks their final collaboration to lift and mate a space shuttle, concluding with the last-ever planned space shuttle stack. The completion of this intricate project signifies a new chapter in Endeavour’s legacy and a testament to the dedication and expertise of the team behind this awe-inspiring endeavor.”