Remember when the Space Shuttle Endeavor wound its way through the streets of Los Angeles in 2012? Just after midnight on Friday there will be a sequel, when crews transport the shuttle’s fuel tank, ET-94, on the final leg of its journey, from Marina del Rey to the California Science Center.
NASA donated ET-94 to the Science Center, which will now display the only complete stack of flight hardware in the world.
More than 30 engineers at Cordoba Corporation have been planning for this day for a year, using computers to simulate every step of the tank’s final 16.5 mile journey.
“Anything of this magnitude has to make you nervous, but we’re confident because we’ve been working on this for awhile," said George L. Pla, president and CEO of Cordoba.
Pla's team will work from 4 p.m. Friday until 7:30 p.m. Saturday; the actual move is expected to take 13-18 hours.
Cordoba also mapped the Endeavor route. The firm donated its services for both projects. Pla said this move is easier because the tank is lighter, and it doesn’t have wings. However, stretching 154 feet, ET-94 is 32 feet taller.
“If you stand it upright, it’s 15 stories and the dang thing weighs 66,000 pounds,” said Pla.
But the tank will make its journey through Southern California lying down. Unlike Endeavor, no trees will need to be sacrificed. However, crews must navigate tight turns and move some power lines, traffic lights and street lamps – this while as many as a million spectators crowd onto L.A.'s sidewalks to watch. Pla says the most difficult part is turning off power to utilities just before ET-94 approaches and turning it back on after the giant tank passes by.
Another challenge is navigating the two times that ET-94 must make a turn, once at South La Brea Ave and again at West Manchester Blvd.
"We've practiced enough that I think we're going to be okay," said Pla. "That simulation is pretty accurate."