NASA's Next Space Shuttle Move: Enterprise Heads for NYC

CHANTILLY, Va. — With NASA's space shuttle Discovery now successfully installed in the Smithsonian, the space agency's next shuttle move on the horizon falls to Enterprise.

Discovery, NASA's oldest and most traveled space shuttle, joined the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Thursday (April 19) to end its storied career. The shuttle replaced Enterprise, a prototype orbiter used only for landing tests, which is now set to be flown up the Eastern Seaboard to New York City next week.

If all goes well, Enterprise will ride atop a jumbo jet from Virginia's Dulles International Airport to the John. F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Monday (April 23), weather permitting.

This summer, Enterprise is due to take up residence at Manhattan's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The museum built on the U.S.S. Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier refitted to display sea relics, planes and, now, spacecraft.

The shuttle shuffle is part of NASA's plan to install its three retired space-flown orbiters, plus the test vehicle Enterprise, in museums for public display. Discovery and its sister ships, Atlantis and Endeavour, each flew their final missions to space last year. Discovery was rolled into the spot vacated by Enterprise inside the Udvar-Hazy Center on Thursday (April 19).

Later in 2012, Endeavour will be moved to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, while Atlantis will stay relatively close to home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center.

On Monday, Enterprise will fly to New York atop a modified Boeing 747 jet, specially outfitted to carry the more than 100,000-pound (50,000-kg) orbiters. Enterprise will be hoisted into the air by two giant steel cranes, while the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft wheels in underneath it. Then the shuttle will be lowered onto its back and attached via three struts on the jet's fuselage. [Photos: A Space Shuttle Called 'Enterprise']

During its flight, the piggybacked shuttle will fly relatively low over Manhattan, with special passes over the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid, NASA announced. The exact route and schedule depend on whether and other constraints.

Once in New York, Enterprise will stay inside a hangar at JFK airport until June or July, while its new home at Intrepid is being readied.