Technicians at Kennedy Space Center are outfitting Discovery with replica main engines just over four months before the retired orbiter's planned ferry flight to the Smithsonian Institution.
The first of the three replica engine nozzles was installed Monday inside Orbiter Processing Facility-1, where Discovery is being readied for public display.
Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne pieced together the eight-foot diameter nozzles from test articles. An expert in space artifact restoration detailed their black exterior coat of paint to make them look more like flown engines.
NASA is keeping 15 flyable shuttle main engines for future use by the Space Launch System, the new heavy-lift rocket being developed for a manned exploration mission by 2021.
The engines are expected to be shipped from KSC to NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, clearing out an engine shop that the Boeing Co. plans to take over for work on a commercial space capsule.
NASA is targeting a mid-April ferry flight of Discovery to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., where it will replace Enterprise.
Enterprise, a prototype, will be shipped to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York and Endeavour to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Atlantis will be towed to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
IMAGE: Inside Orbiter Processing Facility-1 at Kennedy Space Center, an employee on Monday guided a replica shuttle main engine toward installation on space shuttle Discovery. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann