BUT space shuttle returned to NASA Johnson Space Center almost ten years after the last “flight.”
The shuttle, or more specifically the winged spaceship aerobatic deck simulator that gave astronauts the sensation of motion they would experience during launch and landing, returned to Houston nine years after the plan to return it to service collapsed. through. Volunteer team now is working on the preparation of the Motion Base simulator (or, as it was also called, the shuttle motion simulator) for permanent display at the Lone Star Flight Museum, located at nearby Ellington Airport.
“Last week we had two shipments: the first had all the boxes and racks, and the general purpose computers that we are depositing with NASA. Then on Thursday, June 3, we relocated the cockpit and “operator console instructor,” said Bonnie Dunbar, a former NASA astronaut who trained for her five shuttle missions using a rover simulator and now serves on the board of directors of the Lone Star Flight Museum.
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Having already raised more than $ 40,000 of the $ 75,000 expected to be worth after the project is completed, the museum has reached an agreement with NASA to use the vacant test facility for acoustic tests of the spacecraft in the city. Johnson Space Center to restore the simulator. The work is being carried out by a group of retired NASA engineers led by Karl Brainerd, who helped develop the simulator and worked on it throughout its 34-year history, from 1977 to 2011.
“They told me they were finally going to have some fun,” Dunbar told collectSPACE. “This is what they were looking forward to.”
Stops and starts
The mobile base simulator was unique among NASA’s shuttle simulators because it could move. Mounted on a platform supported by six computer-controlled hydraulic legs, the cockpit could tilt forward and backward, side-to-side, and lift up and down to roughly match the orientation of the orbiter during various phases of flight.
After its last use by the STS-135 crew in 2011 by NASA reached an agreement with Texas A&M University move the complete simulator to College Station, where it will again be used as a teaching and engineering development tool. But after his transfer, plans for his second “mission” fell apart.
“Texas A&M has worked very hard to get it and keep it in Texas,” said Dunbar, who also teaches aerospace engineering at the university. “They raised $ 500,000 and intended to place it in the university’s service building because they were going to restore the simulator’s movement and it had all the reinforcements it needed. That was the plan. “
“It’s not entirely clear what happened, but the building became inaccessible and the simulator was put into storage,” she said.
When Dunbar joined the school’s faculty in 2016, she was asked to find a new home for a moving base simulator. At first, the choice of the Lone Star Flight Museum was not obvious. The museum was located in Galveston at the time and was badly hit by the hurricane. Even after moving to Ellington, the opening of the museum was postponed by another storm.
Lone Star also lacked space for the restoration. But with the help of former Johnson Space Center directors Jerry Griffin and George Abby, fundraising campaign startedand the Apollo Vibration and Acoustics Testing Laboratory (Building 49) was approved.
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The goal now is for the restoration of the simulator to be largely completed by November to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the second flight of the STS-2 space shuttle. According to Dunbar, the mobile base simulator will not be in motion when displayed, but it will still be a dynamic exhibit.
“We have everything to bring the cockpit back to a stationary state, mostly static,” she said. “We have some short term plans, which means installing all the displays and turning on the lights. But we also have a long term plan that will likely involve replacing old lights with LEDs because they don’t make old ones. there are more lamps “.
The plan also includes a repainting of the cockpit exterior and the construction of a wheeled cradle to make it easier to move the cockpit in and around the museum.
And then there are the elements that will bring the simulator back to life.
During the last run of the simulator in 2011, Brainerd recorded what the displays showed while STS-135 astronauts practiced flying in an orbiter.
“So we can include audio recording of the crew’s conversation and video of the simulator in motion to show what it is doing,” Dunbar said. “If we put this with a display that shows all the screens and a description of what is happening, you can look into the cockpit and still have the experience.”
Eventually, astronauts can be invited to talk weekly about the shuttle flight, which will help put the simulator in context. Lone Star Flight Museum and its other exhibits.
“We focused on winged aircraft,” Dunbar said. “And this transition of aviation into space and the fact that the shuttle had wings and flew like a glider are very important. We educate visitors and students in the principles of flying, and this also applies to the shuttle. “
Click to collect SPACE to see more photos and to find updates on the rebuilding and demo of the space shuttle motion base simulator at the Lone Star Flight Museum.
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