Museum makes room for shuttle trainer

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — National Museum of the U.S. Air Force workers started Tuesday to rearrange aircraft to make way for a long-awaited NASA space shuttle crew compartment trainer expected to arrive on a transport aircraft next week.

The trainer was one of three that astronauts trained in to prepare for space shuttle missions. The crew compartment training module is expected to arrive Aug. 22 or Aug. 23, said Sarah Swan, an Air Force museum spokeswoman.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will load the three-decade-old trainer on the “Super Guppy,” a whale-shaped, wide-body, turboprop aircraft that has hauled International Space Station components, from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Museum aircraft restoration workers will rearrange military aircraft in the Cold War Gallery, where the crew compartment trainer will be displayed until a new, fourth hangar is built, she said.

“It will be in the gallery, so people will definitely be able to see it… but it will take quite some time for the exhibit to be ready,” she said.

The Air Force museum has yet to hire a contractor to build a payload bay and tail section assembly as part of the mockup, she said. Congress has set aside $3 million for the project.

The trainer was kept in Johnson Space Center’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility for more than three decades.

Construction on the new Air Force museum hangar is expected to begin next year and open in 2014. It will house the Space Galley, Presidential Aircraft Gallery and Global Reach Galley. Officials have raised more than $38 million of the $48 million for needed to pay for the expansion.

The museum attempted to land one of the three retired shuttle orbiters, but NASA chose to send the spacecraft to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the California Science Museum in Los Angeles. A test flight vehicle, the Enterprise, never flew in space but was transferred from the National Air and Space Museum to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a former aircraft carrier moored in New York City.