Local contractor to help build shuttle exhibit

An expanding space shuttle exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force took a major step toward launch with the selection of an Ohio contractor to build a $1.5 million full-scale mock-up of the rocket-powered space glider.

Display Dynamics Inc. of Clayton will construct a payload bay and an engine tail assembly to connect to an existing crew compartment trainer, a life-size flight simulator of the nose, cockpit and lower mid deck of a space shuttle. The work is scheduled for completion by September 2013.

The crew compartment trainer, now displayed in the museum’s Cold War Gallery, arrived aboard NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft last month at the Air Force museum from its prior home at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The simulator, built by Rockwell International Corp. in 1979, prepared more than 300 astronauts, including 75 from the Air Force, for missions aboard the shuttle fleet between 1981 until 2011.

The trainer will be a centerpiece of the museum’s drive to expand science, technology, engineering and math education through the museum. The exhibit will include a “learning node” or 60-seat amphitheater-style, multimedia classroom, to teach science-related topics.

Workers began reinstalling about 1,500 pounds of equipment, such as squeezing in cockpit seats through narrow hatches, into the crew compartment trainer Friday. The cargo was removed and shipped separately to cut down on the 23,000-pound weight of the shuttle simulator when it was airlifted to the museum’s runway.

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By 2015, when construction of a $48 million fourth hangar at the museum is complete, the exhibit will be moved to a new Space Gallery.

Congress set aside $3 million for the transportation and construction of the space shuttle display.

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