The space shuttle replica on top of a Boeng 747 at the Space Center in Houston

Space Center Houston Independence Plaza HVAC

Houston, TX

Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc.

KCI worked with the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation Inc., the non-profit owners of Space Center Houston, to help launch its newest exhibit, the one-of-a-kind Independence Plaza, which features a replica space shuttle mounted on top of the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft, a modified Boeing 747.

Our team was tasked with designing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system for the exhibit. Engineers used expected occupancy rates to calculate the size of a common chiller and air handler that were placed atop the eight-story visitor access tower. Coordination was required with structural engineers to add roof supports to the building, which was already under construction, to ensure it could accommodate the additional 10,900 pounds of equipment.

Another challenge was routing the piping and ducts from the roof into and through the vehicles. While the shuttle, which had been built as a museum display in Florida, already had ductwork in place, the 747 required a completely new system. The design team also had to avoid the functional components of the plane, including the jet fuel tank located just below the main passenger deck.

Keeping in mind the center’s goal of delivering an authentic spacecraft experience for visitors, the design had to consider aesthetics as well as functionality both inside and out. Less than a year after KCI was contracted to complete the HVAC design, the exhibit was ready to open to the public.