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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Although the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011, one orbiter remains in perpetual orbit, Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. To create a permanent home for the retired 153,996-pound orbiter, BRPH provided structural, civil and MEP engineering for a $100 million, 92,000-square-foot facility. The team’s efforts focused on the orbiter support structure including tilting methodology, load analysis and special foundation work to support the structure. In this feat of structural engineering, Atlantis’ nose is elevated 30 feet from the floor, its left wing 7 feet from the floor and upper wing 62 feet from the floor, tilted at a 43.21-degree angle as if floating in space. The priceless artifact is supported by two 30-foot-by-14-inch steel columns that weigh 5,280 pounds each. The support beams used on the underside of Atlantis are formed from pairs of W30 × 173 sections that have been welded together and covered at the top and bottom flanges by one-inch-thick plates.

BRPH also engineered the movement of the spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center to the Visitor Complex — a 13.5-hour journey at 9.8 mph. That attraction was built in stages to accommodate the spacecraft, which measures 57 feet long and 78 feet from wing tip to wing tip, with the final wall going up only after the orbiter was moved into place. The team relied on its extensive knowledge of the shuttle environment, having provided design for both the Vehicle Assembly Building and Operations & Control building at KSC which housed the shuttle fleet while in service.