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NASA / Bill Ingalls
The space shuttle Enterprise is seen mated on top of the NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, at Washington Dulles International Airport on April 21.
By collectSpace.com editor
updated 4/24/2012 1:54:06 PM ET 2012-04-24T17:54:06

Grounded for more than 25 years as a museum display, the space shuttle Enterprise will need to wait just a few more days before taking to the air for one last flight.

The prototype NASA orbiter, which never flew in space but was used by the space agency for approach and landing tests in the late 1970s, will now take off from Washington, D.C. for New York no sooner than Friday, if the weather cooperates.

"A large region of low pressure dominating the east coast has made it difficult to reliably predict an acceptable day for the flight," NASA said in a statement released after a meeting held early Tuesday to reassess the weather forecast. "Managers now are tentatively targeting the flight for Friday, April 27, weather permitting."

NASA had originally planned Enterprise's delivery to John F. Kennedy International Airport for Monday but concerns over the weather delayed its departure. NASA managers met on Monday afternoon and tentatively decided to try for Wednesday, but that was not to be.

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is coordinating the flight, which when finally cleared for takeoff will occur between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. EDT. The exact route and timing are dependent on weather and operational constraints. [ Photos: A Space Shuttle Called 'Enterprise' ]

Later this summer, Enterprise will be transported by barge to New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, on the retired World War II aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, for public display.

Enterprise had been exhibited in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., since 2003, but was displaced when the space-flown shuttle Discovery arrived last Thursday. The next day, Enterprise was mounted atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet, and has since sat at Washington Dulles International Airport waiting for sunny skies.

Rain, rain go away
NASA, in consultation with Intrepid officials, announced the latest flight delay on Tuesday. Local forecasts called for a low pressure system on the East Coast to deliver low clouds and rain in both the Washington and New York areas, preventing the ferry flight from beginning earlier in the week.

Meanwhile on the ground, rain has fallen on Enterprise.

To protect against the showers, shuttle engineers installed makeshift "rain covers" over Enterprise's vent openings on Saturday. After a trip to the local hardware store, workers fabricated the covers out of foam board that they then covered in their hotel parking lot with aluminum sheeting, weather stripping and wood.

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The covers will be removed before Enterprise departs for New York.

NASA stated that the decision to delay Enterprise's ferry was to ensure a safe flight for both the test orbiter and the carrier aircraft crew. At the speed they fly, raindrops can inflict damage on the shuttle's heat shield tiles, and due to weight constraints, the jet does not have the fuel reserves to maneuver around the storms.

NASA also hoped to fly Enterprise over some of New York City's landmarks, including low passes near the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid museum, for photo opportunities. These flyovers however, were weather dependent.

27 years and counting
The last time Enterprise took to the air was on Nov. 18, 1985, when it arrived at Dulles Airport from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to be donated to the Smithsonian. As with this upcoming flight, it was then mounted on the same aircraft that began its airborne service to NASA.

Before the space-worthy orbiters could fly and return from space, Enterprise flew a series of approach and landing test (ALT) flights in 1977 to verify the shuttle's handling as an unpowered glider when returning from space. Two pairs of two astronaut pilots each flew Enterprise to landings at Edwards Air Force Base in California after the orbiter was lofted to altitude by the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft NASA 905.

For this week's flight, Enterprise will fly without a crew — its own cockpit stripped of its instruments long ago — and will remain mounted to the 747 through the touchdown at JFK in front of an invited audience of 1,500 people.

On the ground, the air- and spacecraft will remain together until NASA can re-stage the large cranes it used to hoist Enterprise atop the jet in Washington to New York.

Enterprise will then wait in a JFK hangar until June, when it will loaded onto a barge and moved around Manhattan to the Intrepid. There, the orbiter will be craned onto the flight deck for display.

The Intrepid's new "Space Shuttle Pavilion," a temporary climate-controlled steel-and-fabric structure, is targeted to open to the public in mid-July.

Visit shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA's retired space shuttles.

This story was updated to include new details on the weather delays and new flight target for Enterprise's piggyback flight from Washington to New York.

Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and Twitter @ collectSpace and editor Robert Pearlman @ robertpearlman. Copyright 2012 collectSpace.com. All rights reserved.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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