Help bring the Space Shuttle Simulator to Texas A&M

NASA space shuttle simulatorTexas A&M University has the unique opportunity to acquire a donation of the fully operational NASA space shuttle simulator from the Johnson Space Center.

The Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS) has trained 355 astronauts for 135 missions and will be the only large piece of equipment from the NASA space shuttle program that will remain in the state of Texas. Texas A&M and the Dwight Look College of Engineering are partnering to provide the transportation and space necessary to house the fully operational simulator for K-12 students, public and researchers to utilize for many years to come.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering, which is spearheading the effort, said that it’s not too late for everyone to be a part of this historic event. Donations are still welcome for the final portion of the $500,000 needed to complete the acquisition. For information on donating, contact Don Birklebach at (979) 845-5113 or d-birkelbach@tamu.edu, ordonate online through the Texas A&M Foundation.

In December 2011, Texas A&M signed the Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center to accept responsibility for the Space Shuttle Mission Simulator Motion Base Simulator artifact. Texas A&M is responsible for sustaining the SMS as a NASA space flight artifact, so detailed plans have been generated for receiving and reassembling the simulator. The requirements derived from that responsibility are identified as:

  • Provide a secure and safe environment for the SMS artifact;
  • Provide a functional environment for proper air temperature and humidity control;
  • Provide storage for spares and maintenance areas for SMS; and
  • Permit escorted visitor access to the SMS.

The space required for SMS is approximately 3,600 sq. ft., and an additional 1,400 sq. ft. will be required for spares, support software, documentation archive and maintenance equipment.

The Department of Aerospace Engineering will maintain and house the simulator in the University Services Building (USB) on University Drive.

The existing walls have already been removed in preparation for placing the large items, and installing the new secure walls which extend from floor to ceiling. The SMS is currently in the process of being shipped from JSC to Texas A&M for installation in the USB. Two shipments of support equipment have been received with three additional shipments remaining. The last shipment is scheduled for June 28.

Student volunteers are being enlisted to categorize and log into inventory all of the items NASA is shipping, ranging from bags of screws, bolts, nuts and washers, all the way to computers and the crew compartment itself. With a targeted initial operational capability slated for June 2013, student volunteers from a variety of majors campus-wide have created a sustainability plan, lesson plans for K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach, and a business plan. The Texas A&M chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) are conceptualizing an immersive SMS experience for visitors. This experience will address what visitors will see and experience in the waiting area, audio commentary, still pictures, data and information, and handouts / souvenirs.

The following plan and schedule for reassembly and checkout will be implemented in the next 12 months, utilizing technicians experienced on the SMS for technical support on specific major tasks:

  • May through June 2012: Receive shipments
  • Summer 2012: Host the SMS in the University Services Building, ensuring a secure, safe and controlled enviroment for the SMS artifact. Perform infrastructre modifications necessary to support the SMS.
  • August 2012 through May 2013: Reassembly, including detailed validation and verification effort, and testing.
  • June 2013: Initial operational capability
  • July 2012 through June 2013: Training and procedures development