Atlantis showcase on track for June 29 opening day

It's T-minus 3 weeks and counting until the grand opening of the space shuttle Atlantis attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, just miles from where the orbiter was processed and launched on 33 missions.

Final touches are being made to the exhibits, interactive displays and simulators inside the 90,000-square-foot home purpose-built to house the retired shuttle, as well as topping off the full-size, high-fidelity mockup of an external tank and solid rocket booster stack in front of the $100 million facility.

"We are on schedule to open June 29. Everything is a GO," said Tim Macy, KSCVC's director of project development.

On Friday, photographers and reporters were invited inside for a sneak peek at how things are progressing. The life-size Hubble Space Telescope replica was being hoisted into place adjacent to Atlantis during the media visit, crews were hooking up spacewalk simulators and workers outside were busy readying the upper section of the external tank for lifting into place.

Atlantis' payload bay doors were opened last month, the protective covers removed from the cockpit windows and a replica 50-foot-long robot arm was installed and secured with suspension lines from the ceiling.

Tourists will experience Atlantis illuminated by more than 1,700 theatrical lights as a video of space scenes is played on a massive screen behind the shuttle.

Officials expect to soon begin using employees and even tourists to go through the Atlantis hall for rehearsals and demonstration tests to ensure all systems are operating properly before opening day on Saturday, June 29.

See our coverage of Atlantis' retirement.

Photo credit: Justin Ray/Spaceflight Now

The life-like mockup of the Hubble Space Telescope.

A view of the tank and boosters being assembled at the entrance.

Expedition 29 Patch
Space models