Tulsa Enters Space Shuttle Race

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium is making a bid to become the permanent home for a NASA space shuttle, beginning as early as 2010, as the orbiters are retired.
While TASM is awaiting word from NASA regarding its response to a Request for Information from the agency, the museum is lining up the support it will need to arrange and finance such a high-profile acquisition, said Jim Bridenstine, director of TASM.
As reported first by the Tulsa Business Journal on its Web site and in an e-mail blast, Bridenstine confirmed the proposal April 14 when he thanked U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for writing a letter in support of Tulsa’s efforts to obtain a shuttle. Coburn was in a Town Hall session at the Tulsa Technology Center Peoria Campus.
Bridenstine said TASM had responded to the NASA RFI before the March 17 deadline.
“It would be a phenomenal opportunity for the city of Tulsa,” he said.
Planned for the Shuttle
Understandably, there is expected to be keen competition among major air and space museums to be selected as the home for one of the two remaining shuttles in use (see “Space Shuttle Contenders,” same page).
In addition to the historical significance of the role Tulsa firms and workers played in building parts for shuttles and other space projects, a key element in Tulsa’s bid for a shuttle is the proposed building designed specifically to display the orbiter.
The nearly 400,000-SF museum building, designed by Tulsa-based KPI Architects Inc., 7040 S. Yale Ave., would include a 240,000-SF, 15-story wing designed for the shuttle.
Proponents of the TASM shuttle plan are not aware of any other proposals that would so completely showcase the shuttle.
“There is no building, there is no structure, there is no concept of housing the shuttle that I am aware of that equals this,” said Alex Kindred, vice president of KPI.
KPI, which had previously been contracted to develop a master plan for the TASM site, began developing concepts when the museum “asked us to take a look at what it would take if they were to acquire the space shuttle,” said David A. Kindred Sr., chief executive officer, of KPI.
After agreeing on a design, the firm, led by Alex Kindred, Scott Kindred, Richard Brenner, S. Mark Gelsinger and Dan Hensiek, all vice presidents, produced the drawings in seven days and made revisions in three days to meet the submission schedule.
“They have been great to work with,” Bridenstine said.
Sizing Up the Challenge
The size of the shuttle was the first challenge faced by the architects.
At 120 feet, nose to tail, 80 feet, wingtip to wingtip, and 69 feet from the top of the tail to the bottom of mains, “you are basically dealing with a 12-story building standing on end, and eight stories wide,” Alex Kindred said. “If you put it down on its mains, it’s still seven stories tall. To properly display that in a static position is challenging. Everybody sets the space shuttle on the mains and lets people just walk up to it. I don’t think that does it justice.”
Their answer was to develop a dynamic display concept, which rotates the shuttle on a turntable and also raises and lowers it on an axis so it can be displayed horizontally or raised to a vertical position, “where you actually get the most wow factor,” he said.
“You can actually walk underneath the engines and see inside of them and see the scale of the shuttle itself,” Scott Kindred said.
Additional wow factors comes from the placement of a 100-by-80-foot LED screen that displays video and, at night, can be seen backlighting the shuttle from outside, and the use of translucent Vision Glass on outside walls that is controlled by sensors to block UV light up to 99.8 percent.
In addition to 24 classrooms, a full 400-seat theater, a four-story parking garage and thousands of SF of additional museum display space, the building includes museum space for the original American Airlines “Flagship Tulsa” DC-3, which was recently purchased by TASM donors with plans to restore it to flying condition.
“You are going to drive up and see the space shuttle and the complex and go, ‘Wow,’” said David Kindred.
The Tulsa Legacy
Of course, that requires that Tulsa is selected as the home for one of the retiring shuttles. Tulsa has many ties to space programs in the past:
? The Orbiter’s Cargo Bay Doors were built by Tulsa’s Rockwell International.
? All 11 Main Truss Structures and the Integrated Electrical Assemblies of the International Space Station (ISS) were built at Boeing Tulsa.
? Rockwell International in Tulsa made the modifications to the Boeing 747 Carrier Aircraft to enable it to carry a Space Shuttle Orbiter.
? The Shuttle Mate-Demate Devices (MDDs) used to lift the Orbiter onto the Carrier Aircraft and maneuver the Orbiter vertically for the launch pad, were made by Rockwell International in Tulsa. Those systems would be featured in the proposed museum building.
? Tulsa’s North American Aviation built structures for Apollo Spacecraft and Saturn Rockets, which were used to place Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.
Rooting for the Underdog
Due to the high-profile nature of the proposal, Bridenstine said it is not clear what the next step will be.
He estimated it could cost $150 million, $42 million of which is required by NASA to prepare and relocate a shuttle, but he is confident that with city, chamber, state and philanthropic support the funds can be raised
“We are a small museum compared to a lot of the guys who are going to go for this, but there is a reason we should do this,” he said. “The space agenda is what NASA wants to let the world know about. That is the story we want to tell on behalf of NASA, and I think we can do it well.”

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?