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From the Archives: Downey space shuttle mockup displayed in 1975

Feb. 5, 1975: A full-size mockup of the space shuttle with satellite emerging for placement into orbit, on display at North American Rockwell in Downey.
Feb. 5, 1975: A full-size mockup of the space shuttle with satellite emerging for placement into orbit, on display at North American Rockwell in Downey.
(Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times)

North American Rockwell built the shuttle mockup in 1972. Originally, it was used to win approval of the space shuttle program. In later years, it was used for hardware and software development.

In a Feb. 6, 1975, Los Angeles Times article, aerospace writer Marvin Miles reported:

New, compartmented spacecraft, designed to be repaired in orbit, promise important economic savings in America’s Space Shuttle program during the 1980s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Wednesday.

In a press briefing at the Downey plant where Rockwell International is developing the stub-winged shuttle that will launch like a rocket and land like a plane, NASA demonstrated the new concept, characterized as roadside maintenance.

A simulated earth observation satellite, nestled in the payload bay of a full-sized shuttle mockup, was raised into position, rotated and repaired remotely from the ship’s cabin with the exchange of one module, or compartment, for another. …

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The space shuttle program ended in 2011 after 135 flights. The remaining three shuttles were retired and moved to museums. The shuttle Endeavour is on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

The Downey mockup was used until 1999. It’s now in storage. The owner, the Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center in Downey, hopes to put the mockup on display. In 2012, the mockup was named “Inspiration.”

The above photo by Ben Olender appeared in the Feb. 6, 1975, Los Angeles Times. I took the image below during a November 1978 tour of the Downey facility.


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